On the death and dying of a beloved uncle

De Facto

A LIFE LIVED Drummin native Míceál Hastings spent 63 a priest, until his retirement 14 years ago.


De Facto
Liamy MacNally

For the past week my beloved uncle, Míceál Hastings, has been walking on the shores of eternity, dipping his toes into the next world. It has been a chastening journey. You realise what’s important and the futility of carrying any baggage of regret and guilt.
He has priested for 63 years, working in Dublin until his retirement 14 years ago. “I’d do it all again in a heartbeat,” he proudly told me recently. He enjoyed weaving into the heartbeats of people’s lives, bringing comfort, consolation and assuredness that nothing could come between any person and the love of God.
For him the Church is the people of God. “The Church is truly divine,” was his motto. Aware that the word ‘Catholic’ means universal, he could absorb the constant change more easily than many younger priests. He accepted that age claims limitations on the body and while the mind might be willing, the bones speak louder!
When we were children he visited often. We were ‘shooshed’ outside when he had to pray his Breviary. Singlehandedly, he could ‘Kapow!’ Batman or curb the prairie prancing of The Virginian without lifting a finger! We always received compensation – ‘travel sweets’. We loved those exotic tastes that lasted, what seemed like, an hour in your mouth!
Medical markers indicated recently that his health had deteriorated. With sepsis a possibility he was removed to Mayo General A&E on a Sunday night. One would not wish this on anyone. Visiting him there, as he approached his 90th year, you wonder how and why we, as a nation, allow such a system of so-called healthcare to exist. Mayhem is too kind a word for it.
Yet, on the other hand, every interaction with a doctor or nurse was graciousness and tolerance personified. If you need your faith in humanity restored check in with frontline medical staff. They were exemplary amidst a sea of indignity and obvious contempt displayed by the ongoing ineptitude of political administrations.
How can it be so difficult to get a healthcare model that works in an effective and generous way for a population of just over 5 million?  
A trip to the ICU was another tale of respect and care from health staff. Everyone was so supportive and reassuring. It really was both humbling and restorative. Those of us on the edge of this journey have been so impressed by the level of commitment from the staff who crossed our path. It is even more reassuring to know that those they treat must surely feel that care and love directly.
Back from ICU it was the final trip back to the Sacred Heart Home, Carra Suite. To say, as a family, we have been deeply grateful and genuinely touched by the love and esteem shown so graciously to us and our dear uncle in the Sacred Heart is an understatement.
The whole energy of the Sacred Heart breathes quality care and genuine staff attachment to residents. Medical, nursing, support care, cleaning, administrative and catering staff all combine to provide a service that is a credit to our beleaguered healthcare system.
We sat with uncle morning, noon and night. We sang, recited, laughed, cried and prayed rosaries and psalms. We discovered that Sally, his elder sister, is a walking bi-lingual jukebox! She coaxed soothing schooldays memories of Derrymore National School and ‘The Missus’ as she whispered family and neighbours names into his ear. We knew Míceál could hear. He was always a good listener who managed to field every single curve ball thrown at him.
We cherish his generosity, humour, faith and love of family as he is laid to rest in his native cherished Drummin. He now joins his parents, siblings, relatives and his faithful friend, Joan Skelly. Among Míceál’s wonderful legacy is a film collection, which includes his ordination and first blessings of his parents, Michael Thady and Mary, and siblings in 1959.
The tip-toe of last week is now a total immersion. He will still be called upon, as he now plays a stronger hand. May He who began the good work in Míceál bring it to completion in the day of Christ.