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A walk of compassion

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Terri and I met Joe, his wife Jackie and their family when they joined Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Plymouth in 1998. They quickly became a second set of parents to us. They were devout Catholics and daily communicants. Joe became a lector at the parish where Terri, also a lector, got to know him better. Jackie watered the plants and helped care for the gardens on the parish grounds.

Joe was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about six years ago. Jackie was devastated but she put her faith in God. This began our ministry to him and his family. Jackie and Joe moved in with their daughter Joyce and her family when Joe was diagnosed, so that Jackie would have help with Joe's care. Jackie brought Joe to Mass every weekend because it gave him so much peace. As the disease started to worsen and Joe was unable to attend Mass, Terri and I started to visit with him and Jackie almost every Sunday.

The highlight of our visits was bringing Joe the Eucharist. No matter where he was in the course of his disease, each time I gave him the Eucharist it brought tears to his eyes, tears of joy. When he was able to communicate, he spoke about how important our visits were and that they helped him to continue to feel connected to the parish community. As time passed, Joe fell and broke his hip. He was confined to a wheelchair and lived in a nursing home. Jackie visited him every day and tended to all of his needs and Terri and I continued to bring him Eucharist on Sundays. About a year after his fall, Joe passed away. The day before Joe died we had brought him Communion and it was the last food he ate, truly food for the journey as the sacrament given at the end of life is called.

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