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The Last Days of Fr. Damian de Veuster (Brs)

Here is how the Father Wendelin Moellers ss.cc., who was present, describes the last days of Damian:

On Saturday March 23 he was still, as usual, active and full of chores. It was the last time I saw him so. From March 28 he did not come out of his room. That day put in order his temporal affairs. Having signed his papers, he said: "How happy I am to have given everything to Bishop, now I die poor, I have nothing mine."

On Thursday March 28 he began to be bedridden. On Saturday 30 he made his preparation for death. It was really edifying to see him; he seemed so happy. When I had heard his general confession, I confessed myself to him, and then together we renewed the vows that bind us to the Congregation.

The next day, he received the Holy Viaticum. The whole day he was happy, joyful, as usual. "See my hands?”, he told me , “all my wounds are closing, the crust turns black: a sign of death, you know it well. Notice also my eyes; I have seen the death of many lepers, which I am not mistaken; death is not far. Much I would have liked to see again Monsignor, but God calls me to celebrate the Passover with Him. Blessed be God! "

He just thought about preparing himself to die. There was no way that he was wrong: it was visible that death was approaching.

APRIL 2 he received the extreme unction from the hands of Rev. Fr. Conrardy.

"How good God has been, he said to me during the course of that day, to keep me enough to have two priests at my side to assist me in my last moments, and also to know that the good sisters of Charity are in the leprosarium. This is my Nunc dimittis. The leprosy's work is assured. Therefore I am no longer needed, so, soon I will go up there”.

"'When you are up there, father,' I said, “do not forget those you leave as orphans”.

“- Oh, no!” - he answered – “if I have any credit with God I will intercede for all who are in the leper colony. "

I asked him to leave me his cloak, like Elijah, to have his big heart.

"What could you do with it?”, he said, “If it is full of leprosy!"

Then I asked for his blessing. He gave it with tears in his eyes; he also blessed the courageous daughters of St. Francis for whose coming he had prayed so much.

The following days the Father felt better; we even conceived the hope of keeping him for still more time. The sisters came often to visit him. What I most admired in him was his admirable patience. He, so ardent, so alive, so strong, to see himself nailed to his poor litter, but without suffering too much. He was lying on the floor, on a poor straw mattress as the simplest and poorest of the lepers, and we had great difficulty in making him accept a bed. And what poverty! He, who spent so much to relieve the lepers, forgot about himself to the point of not having any change of cloth, or clothes, or blankets.

His attachment to the Congregation was admirable. How often he told me: "Father, you hereby represent to me the Congregation, is not it? Say together the prayers of the Congregation. How good it is to die as a son of the Sacred Hearts!"

Several times he asked me to write to our very reverend Father to tell him that his greatest consolation at that time was to die as a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts.

On Saturday April 13 he worsened, and all hope of keeping him vanished. A little after midnight he received the Lord for the last time; soon he would see him face to face. Every so often he lost consciousness. When I went to see him he recognized me, he spoke to me, and we said goodbye, because I had to go to Kalaupapa for the next day, which was Sunday. As soon as I finished the services I came back to him, and I found him with enough strength, but his mind was no longer clear. I read in his eyes the resignation, joy, satisfaction, but his lips could no longer articulate what was in his heart. Every so often he affectionately squeezed my hand.

On Monday April 15th I received a note from Reverend Father Conrardy, in which he said that the Father was dying. Hastily I set off, but then I found another emissary who came to announce his death.

He died effortlessly, as if he would fall asleep, gently fading away after having spent more than sixteen years amid the horrors of leprosy. The Good Shepherd had given his life for his sheep. When I arrived he was already coated in his cassock. All signs of leprosy had disappeared from his face, the wounds of his hands were completely dry.

At about eleven o'clock in the morning we took him to the church, where he remained exposed until eight the next morning, surrounded by lepers who were praying for their venerable Father. On Monday afternoon the sisters came to decorate the coffin: white silk inside, and outside black cloth with a white cross.

On the 16th I celebrated Mass for my dear brother. After the Mass the funeral procession started, we passed in front of the new church to enter the cemetery. The cross headed the procession, then came the musicians and members of an association, once the sisters with women and girls and then the coffin, carried by eight white lepers; behind the coffin the officiating priest, accompanied by father Conrardy and acolytes, and followed by the brothers with his youth and men.

FATHER DAMIAN had started his life on Molokai in extreme hardship conditions, to the point of having to spend the first night in the shelter of a large tree. According to his wish to be buried under the same tree, a pandanus, I had done the preparation while he was still ill, a grave in the indicated place. This is where his body rests, awaiting a glorious resurrection. It is turned towards the altar. The grave is covered by a thick layer of cement. This is where the remains of the good Father Damian was placed, whom the world rightly called the Hero of Charity.

Molokai, April 17, 1889 Father Wendelin, ss.cc.