Sister Lucia of Fatima passed away on Feb. 13, 2005, after a long, drawn-out illness due to old age. She died just short of her 98th birthday, which would have been on March 28. Her charm and good humor lasted to the very end, even when she could not eat anything, but lupines (legume-like seeds from the lupin plant).
Lucia was a jokester, making light of other people’s work in assisting her. “I am poorly served,” she would quip, when someone came to her aid. For several months, the Carmelite sisters who tended to her needs thought the end was near, but Lucia’s painful days would go on. Weak, cold and unable to eat or sleep much, she was confined mostly to her bed, always chiding her helpers, especially in the evenings if she was left alone.
The final two weeks in February were constantly touch and go. She received the anointing of the sick on February 3. Two days later was a First Saturday and the Sisters did not think she would make it through the day. The bishop visited her that day, but she was too weak and could not speak to him. On February 8, she received absolution from her confessor and the next day she was able to take Holy Communion for the last time. After this, she was unable to swallow anything, not even water.
Sister Lucia suffered in silence, offering everything to the Lord, especially for the Holy Father. St. John Paul II was suffering his last months with Parkinson’s disease. The two of them shared an almost mystical union, a special relationship in which they understood their missions and embraced their crosses with great zeal, praying for each other. Sister Lucia spoke her last words on February 10, letting the sisters know her sufferings were “For the Holy Father! For the Holy Father!” He, in turn, faxed her an apostolic blessing on the morning of her death. It was a highly treasured moment in Lucia’s waning hours.
The Sisters had always thought the Blessed Mother would come for Lucia on a Saturday, but as February 12 came to an end, it was not to be. Lucia spent that night in great difficulty, struggling to breath and in much anguish and pain, in part, from being unable to eat or drink for days. Even the intravenous feeding tube would sometimes get blocked and cause her greater suffering.
The following morning, the Sisters noticed a light about her face and the pain seemed to have diminished. She had a knack for bouncing back and surprising them. But as the morning gave way to afternoon, her labored breathing began again and her suffering resumed. She spent the afternoon with her eyes fixed on the Crucifix in silent prayer. At 5 p.m., her community sensed that her heart was giving out and death was imminent. They surrounded her bed and with the bishop, prayed a final blessing.
Just before she gave herself up to the Lord, she opened her eyes and looked at each one of them intently, giving her final farewell in the most intimate way she could. Then she set her eyes on the Crucifix again and gave herself to the Lord, through the arms of Our Lady.
One can only ponder that heavenly moment, when Lucia was once again united with Francisco and Jacinta after 87 years, and the beautiful Lady brighter than the sun.
Barb Ernster is the National Coordinator/Communications Manager/Editor for the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA.