I arrived late for Vespers on Friday, April 27. So, I was surprised to learn that Fr. Dan Havron, a priest, spiritual director and popular evangelist died late that afternoon. He was finishing a retreat for the Sisters of Charity at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati when he suffered a catastrophic heart attack. He was a member of my community and five years younger than I.
Dan and I had breakfast together earlier that fatal Friday. He presided for Mass in our public chapel that morning. Dan told me he had a ticket to visit his ailing mother in South Carolina the next morning. The previous weekend we shopped together for some rosaries—two for his Mom and one for my grand nephew’s First Communion.
It is so hard to accept Dan’s sudden death. I find myself asking questions. Did they have an automatic electronic defibrillator at the Sisters’ chapel? There must have been nurses on duty in the infirmity. Did they rush to my fallen brother? Such questions are futile, I know. Maybe they are part of my unconscious denial that something like this happened so suddenly.
All during our community retreat during the days after Dan’s death questions kept erupting. Finally, I was able to view his lifeless body during the wake. There, in his hands, was one of the rosaries Dan had purchased with me, a rosary he intended for his mother. How difficult for his elderly mother, I kept thinking, all during the wake and funeral Mass. But reality sunk into my consciousness as well.
We Cincinnati Franciscans have a traditional hymn we sing at funerals. It was brought from Austria by the missionary friars who came to Cincinnati to serve German speaking immigrants. At friars’ funerals we sing that hymn. The Latin words begin “Ultima in mortis hora.” It speaks of our dying and passing from this life. The words always bring somber thoughts and tears as we sing it in Latin and English. The hymn invokes the Blessed Mother’s aid in our dying moments.
When our day of life is ending,
Mary, with thy Son attending,
Lead us home. To thee we call
Virgin, Mother, Queen of all!
Dan, you went before me into the next life. Let’s keep in touch through prayer until my time comes and I pass over to eternal life.
Photo Credit: Noel Powell, PhotoXpress