Once in a while, when God looks down on us with love, he drops a soul into the world like a pebble gently tossed into a pond. Like that pebble, the soul makes waves that spread throughout the world before it all too quickly slips from our sight. My brother Davy was just such a soul.
I could talk at length about Davy’s quiet generosity, his love for his family, for his sons, Michael and Andrew. I could also talk about how since childhood Davy was a natural leader and how even at a young age the neighborhood children would follow him around. As an Army officer, his men loved and trusted Davy. No, my limited time and lack of eloquence cannot do justice to almost 50 years of a life well lived.
I do want to take a moment and share with you about how Davy inspired us during the last couple of years as his struggle with ALS progressed.
Jesus never promised us an easy life when he said that we must pick up our cross and follow Him and it is a paradox of our faith that whom Jesus especially loves, he gives a great cross. Davy was Jesus’s pebble tossed into our lives and the waves He made through Davy will continue to radiate throughout our world for many years to come.
Davy’s illness inspired compassion, love and generosity in others. Davy’s suffering became an opportunity for people think of others instead of themselves. Neighbors, friends, or even strangers would commit acts of love in the name of Davy. People would come over to help around the house, bring or cook food and bring comfort to Davy, my parents and Davy’s boys. Jesus told us that whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do unto me. Therefore, every act of love and kindness directed to Davy and our family was also an act of love toward Jesus Himself. Davy’s illness inspired compassion in others and through it Jesus brought His love to us while we in turn became more loving people to our neighbor.
Davy’s illness also inspired a spiritual awaking in those around him. One of Davy’s fellow Army officers to spoke to me about how Davy’s inner beauty brought her back to a deeper love of her Catholic faith that she had lost. Others began to pray, some for the first time. Some of us began to pray the Rosary daily, others started to attend daily Mass. At first, these prayers were for Davy and our family but as time went by Jesus used our newly inspired prayer lives to draw us to a deeper relationship of love with Him.
In effect, Jesus was using Davy to bring all of us into a closer with Him.
A week before Davy passed away he was hospitalized for three simultaneous blood infections. What happened in the hospital during that stay was the most profound and mysterious lesson for us all.
While my brothers Peter and Patrick and our mother and I sat with Davy his blood pressure took a sudden, drastic drop. Davy became unresponsive. His doctor ran through all of the checks, poking and pinching Davy, she even yelled in his ear. Nothing. Even a light shinned in Davy’s eyes brought no pupil response. Although Davy still had a weak pulse and low blood pressure, he was, for all practical consideration, dead.
At the time, the medical staff had no options to revive Davy. It was everyone’s belief that this was it and clinical death was imminent. A few moments later, by sheer coincidence, Davy’s parish priest arrived. We all gathered around Davy and began to pray and talk to him. We stood and prayed out loud there for two hours to include 2 full rosaries, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Daily Office. Slowly and miraculously, with no medical intervention, Davy began to come around, opening and closing his eyes and mouthing some of the prayers with us. Davy eventually came around later long enough to see our sister Charlene and cousin Jim for the last time as well has have some last moments with Michael and Andrew and our parents.
For those of us who were there it was a profoundly moving experience that we will never forget. As I have thought about what happened three truths became apparent:
- We didn’t pray alone, but the Guardian Angels of everyone in that hospital room was praying with us.
- That prayer isn’t about repetition, incantations or even changing God’s mind. Prayer is about us opening up ourselves to the love and generosity of God.
- Lastly, no one lives without prayer. Prayer is life itself and even if we don’t pray for ourselves others pray for us and sustain us. It could be our parents and friends who pray for us. At the very least our Guardian Angels pray us constantly even if we don’t believe and pray. Like the air around us, pray is life and we don’t appreciate what it would mean to live without it until it’s gone.
Saint Paul in his epistles reminds us that we have a cloud of witnesses watching over us and cheering us on from above. Davy is now among them and from there he will continue to pray for us and be a part of our family. Like the pebble dropped into a still pond, Davy has now slipped past our sight but the waves he made still radiate outward. We must continue to be those waves and to go forth and inspire others as Davy inspired us, with acts of love towards our neighbor and with unceasing prayer for others.
For David Bolton, LTC, US Army February 12, 1965- November 10th 2013.
Post Script: It’s been almost a year since my brother Davy passed away after a two and a half year struggle with ALS. What I have just shared with you are my words of remembrance I gave at the end of his funeral Mass.
I am amazed at how God perfectly set the stage upon which this miracle occurred. First, there was an audience: me, my brothers and my mother. Second, the doctor just happened to be present when Davy became unresponsive and validated his condition medically. The doctor was not normally in Davy’s room. Third, Davy’s parish priest unexpectedly arrived in the hospital room just after the doctor validated Davy’s condition. Fourth, I had the Rosary shown in the photos with me for all of us to pray with. It’s too much of a coincidence for all of this to line up perfectly by shear chance and luck.
It has been a long stretch between posts but I have been in the middle of moving to Massachusetts and starting a new job. Keep checking back for new posts! It shouldn’t be so long next time.