My dearest friend shared the following story with me as I was writing my book, Rekindle Eucharistic Amazement. We placed the story in the book to help people know the consequences of yielding to demonic influences.
A hospice patient whom we will call “Robert” was a high ranking member of a demonic cultic order. His order’s cloak hung neatly in his closet and we were instructed that he was to be buried in that cloak. Robert was unconscious lying in his bed when I arrived for my shift. He appeared comfortable except he was experiencing some difficulty breathing. Suddenly, I began to sense the tangible presence of demonic spirits in the room. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and a cloud of oppression overcame me. I have been in the ministry of intercession and spiritual warfare for many years. This was the most intense presence of evil that I had ever experienced. The battle for Robert’s soul had begun.
Employing classic Saint Ignatius (of Loyola) principles I quickly discerned what was happening. As a lay companion of the Intercessors of the Lamb for nearly twenty years, I prayed a binding prayer in the almighty Name of Jesus Christ to render the activity of the evil spirits impotent. I called on the Eternal Father, Mother Mary, St. Michael and the Saints to come to the rescue of this poor soul. I prayed at his bedside, the rosary, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. After completing the prayers, I noted that he was in a state of restlessness, appearing to be interiorly tortured. His facial grimacing was accompanied by moans, not of physical pain, but of spiritual terror. I called for backup intercession from our Intercessors of the Lamb prayer group. Robert’s vital signs indicated that he would die soon. I had an overwhelming sorrow for his soul because I sensed he was not turning to the Lord Jesus. Personally, I felt delivered from spirits of fear, anxiety and oppression after the prayers, but Robert still appeared to be agitated. I picked up the Bible and began to read the scriptures, claiming the word of God for this man. As his hospice nurse this seemed the most important task at hand.
As other nurses and facility staff entered the room, they approached the patient with compassion, but quickly they would step back from the bed, troubled at what they observed in his tormented face. They asked me if I was alright in the room alone because they sensed again the presence of evil. The room felt icy cold and void of love. The spiritual battle continued for two more nights. I stayed in contact with my priest spiritual director and prayer partners to discern how to pray for this soul. On the third night the unthinkable entered my mind that perhaps this soul could be lost forever because his will was fixed against Jesus Christ.
In Robert’s final hour his face turned grey-white and terrible demonic markings appeared upon his forehead that looked like red and black burns in the shape of flames of fire to be seen clearly. It was as if the demon marked him as his property to mock Jesus Christ’s seal of the cross at Christian baptism. The devil always aims to mock the Most Holy Trinity. Robert died in physical and spiritual agony. As other hospice nurses came to look upon the patient, they gasped in horror at the markings on his forehead. We covered Roberts’ body and face completely to prevent his family from seeing him in such a shocking condition. We spared his wife of the visual impression of devil’s final assault, still hoping the final victory was the Lord’s. We will never know.
In prayer, I begged the Lord for some understanding about why prayers of intercession did not seem to help this patient. The Lord helped me to understand that I was sent to intercede for this soul. Jesus offered Robert divine mercy! In prayer the Lord reminded me that he created Robert for eternal beatitude and willed him to be in Paradise but He does not violate human free will. Truly we are free to choose or reject God. We make that choice each day of our lives, and as we live, so too we die. Thank God Robert’s story is unique in my experience of as a hospice nurse.
How we live each day of our lives culminates in an intense moment of truth at the time of death.
The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord,” to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death (CCC 1014).
Every action of your, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience…Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow.…(The Imitation of Christ, 1,23,1; CCC 1-14).
When my good father in law was brutally bludgeoned in the head by a thief he underwent brain surgery in an effort to save his life. The surgery was not successful. He was wheeled out of the operating room and placed on life support systems until the family could gather for our farewell. When he was disconnected from the life support machines, I watched as my father in law breathed his last. I marveled as he peacefully ceased to breathe, and a slight smile appeared on his bruised face surrounded by gentle light not of this world. I contrasted this quiet moment to the violent hours that preceded his death that day. A blanket of peace descended upon the room and I felt privileged to witness dad’s final breath. I was mindful of the breath of God; how the Lord sustains life, and absent His breath, we cease to live on earth. Our father lived a good life, and despite the violence that led to his death, he died peacefully surrounded by the loving prayers and faith of his large Irish-German family.
I recall the special graces associated with the passing of an aunt. She was married but her husband preceded her into eternal life. She did not have children because she was always the caregiver of extended family. She was in the process of dying a natural death in the warmth of the family home. It was not necessary that she be hooked up to machines; no intravenous drips of morphine or any other painkiller was needed. We sat around her bed and conversed with her as she went in and out of consciousness. Suddenly she said, “The room is filled with them. There is hardly enough room for all of them. Don’t you see them? Angels are all over this room.” I believed her because she was credible and the existence of angels is part of Catholic doctrine. She continued, “Oh, John (her deceased husband) is here. He is extending his hand to me. There are other family members too. I see them.” Then, speaking first person to her deceased husband she said, “Oh John, I want to go, but I will miss all these people. I am not quite ready please.” This no nonsense woman of faith was utterly believable. It seemed the natural order of things for a good woman who served others selflessly all of her life. We told her that we would miss her but we would be together again; it would be alright if she went to meet the Lord and her husband. The next day, with her face illumined, she looked up as if acknowledging the presence of someone we could not see and then she closed her eyes and peacefully breathed her last.
As we live, so too, we die.