My father died almost two weeks ago now, on August 12, 2019—the night before my mom’s birthday. It was a peaceful, beautiful passing, the kind Catholics spend their lives praying for. My mother kissed him goodnight and told him she loved him, and he quietly took his last breath. Just like that.
He had been sick with congestive heart failure for a very long time, and although he had made a million “comebacks” health-wise (we often joked that his “internal reset button” was strong!), we knew this time that the end was near. That entire last day, he heard us—wife, daughters, siblings, grandchildren, friends—pour out our love for him, both in person by his bedside and over the phone in his ear. He heard the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and prayers for the dying. He went with the sacraments of the Church.
My dad was the beloved patriarch of our family, and, even at 5’3”, he was always larger than life. It’s hard to conceive that he is gone—the mind, body, and spirit rebel at the thought!—and we are all grieving. But we were so blessed to have had him for so long.
Which brings me to the following. A few years ago now (maybe five or six?), my dad wrote a little essay about some things that were in his heart. He read it to me and then handed me the notepaper with his distinctive script, saying that he thought I should publish it on my blog (back when I was writing the Bubble). I humored him and told him I might just do that, but I never did. I did transcribe it, though, and I kept it on my computer. I thought of it again after his death, and I pulled it back up. There was much more there than I realized, things that his loved ones needed to hear now. So, to my sweet daddy, here it is—I’m finally publishing it, just exactly as you wrote it. Sorry for the delay…
Blessed, by Farouk Habra, M.D.
What a word, tangible and intangible, used with utmost respect and sometimes casually, has so many definitions, and covers so many situations. One word that describes a multitude of meanings, before and after a happening, a wish for an occurrence or thanks and gratitude for an event, a magnificent or trivial incident; a good outcome, all of the human race, and the glorious beauty of nature, and on and on, and on....
I don’t think that one day goes by that I don’t mention the word “blessed” within the deepest confines of my heart (or out loud) to my wife, daughters, all my grandchildren, friends and many strangers whose life may cross mine only that one time—wherever that may be. It has been my experience that it has always been received with respect and more times than not with a reciprocal “bless” included response—often, a bonus comes with it when a beautiful smile brightens that face.
At this moment, I am putting this ink on paper most of all to impress on my grandchildren what that word “bless” or “blessed” has always meant to me every day of my life.
In my mind and way of thinking, this word always involves God, and through Him, all humanity as we are all His children. It also includes the infinite beauty of the universe we live in, this earth, the mountains and the valleys, the lakes and the streams, the trees and the flowers, their colors and their shapes, the birds and their chirps, the sky, the sun, the stars, the moon, the simple shape of a rock or the majesty of a waterfall, the sound of a brook or the fleeting jump of a silvery fish on the surface of the ocean, the animals both wild and domesticated that provide us with such pleasures to watch and study and enjoy, the conveniences of daily life and the utmost comfort we live in, the amazing machines that God allowed man to develop, from rockets to superb luxurious other transportation means, medical miracles and pain relief and on and on and on....
It all started this year as Easter was dawning—I was quietly meditating, walking with my friend “Mish Mish” our shnoodle, when a lady jogger approached from the opposite direction, and as I was ready to wish her a “Happy Easter” (I didn’t know and I still don’t know what faith she belongs to), she blurted—almost out of breath but with a smile—a “Blessed Easter to you!” To which I obviously responded, “And to you too, ‘Christ is Risen, He is Truly Risen’” as we do in the Melkite Catholic Church that Mary and I attend.
Which brings me to a deeper thought: Do non-believers ever use the word “blessed”, or “bless you” after a sneeze—I am sure most do, but they have not taken the time to think or analyze what they are saying.
The other point that I often think about is when I say, “We are so blessed” is the question: Am I being thankful and grateful to my God for what my life has been all about?! Am I thinking about how “blessed” or lucky I and my family are to be living in this great country, how blessed or lucky we are to still be alive in relatively good health, or how great it feels to enjoy retirement, beautiful weather, my gorgeous surroundings, the flowers, the birds and peace of mind—and so on, and so on, and so on....
All this is wonderful, but am I committing a sin of pride by having convinced myself over the years that there is no question in my mind that my ultimate destiny is sharing eternity happily staring at the face of God?!
The other big point I feel I have to cover for the benefit of whoever reads this is that I never considered myself a saint or anything remotely close to being one, but not only that, as anyone that knows me can attest, my life has not always been a bed of roses: Sometimes uncertain childhood, immigration twice, surviving bullets and bombs, U.S. Navy service in Vietnam, cancer survivor so far with two recurrences, great worry about not being able to be the best surgeon I could be, and so on and so on....
Does that mean that during those trials, I was not “blessed”?! The answer is “NOT AT ALL”—It is difficult to put in words, but I truly feel that I have always been so blessed, because I never, not for a second, felt abandoned by my God and His “blessed” Mother to whom I have always had a special devotion. I tell my grandchildren: How could Jesus our God ever refuse His (and our) mother’s request when she intercedes for us—Cana is the proof—
My Faith helps keep me on the right path, and when one feels God is far away, one should always question who moved—
Keep the Faith.
God loves you so, so much; how could you ever dare think that for even a fraction of a second He could abandon you?!
We are truly “blessed”.