Paul Furey’s condition has been changing rapidly. His family has done a great job keeping people up-to-date via the journal on the CaringBridge site. (The CaringBridge site is the best place to stay up-to-date as to his condition, and to leave comments in the Guestbook that his family can read to him.)
Last night, his brother posted this entry:
Paul’s breathing is very labored today. He has asked that we not do any extraordinary means to prolong his life, as the cancer is growing very fast. All of us siblings and Mom and Dad are here, or have been here within the last day or so to surround Paul with love. He is still able to communicate. Although he has trouble saying more than a word or two, he has been texting furiously.
And via Katie van Schaijik:
Paul’s brother Tom just called me from Mayo and asked me to send out an update which says that Paul’s main doctor, Dr. Porrata, has said that for any people who would like to see Paul and say goodbye, that they should come within the next 24 hours (although it could possibly be up to 48 hours). Tom said that Paul is conscious, but he can’t talk really because talking even just a word or two is thoroughly exhausting for him. But, he can see and recognize people. It was also confirmed to Tom that the cancer in Paul’s lungs is quite large and widespread.
Since I am in Minnesota, I decided to take the opportunity to drive down to Rochester this afternoon to see Paul with some friends: Stephen, Jenni, and Leopold Maas, and Brother Peter Gabriel (Vecellio). When we arrived around 3 pm, there were several friends visiting from New Ulm and other places. His parents and some of his siblings were also there with him.
We only were with him for about ten minutes. It was good, difficult, and humbling to be with Paul during this hour of trial. Feelings of loss, joy, and gratitude all spring up at once. How do you even begin to say thank you for such a life of witness to the Gospel? We assured him of our prayers. He is praying for us as well.
Paul was conscious most of the time we were with him, although occasionally he would close his eyes. He seemed fatigued but strong. He had a pad and paper to communicate with us, but he also spoke to us out loud several times, removing his oxygen mask to do so. By turns serious and humorous, he shared memories, asked questions, and told stories.
I don’t know Paul very well, as most of my encounters with him have happened at events at which we were both volunteering — ROMA 2000 young adult retreats, Steubenville North youth conferences, Theology of the Body talks, etc. But since he worked in New Ulm and frequently was in Saint Paul for these events, he stayed overnight at my house on Kenneth Street a few times. I have always been impressed by his generous service, his intelligence, and his love for the Church. Some of the brightest lights in the Church burn quietly, and Paul strikes me as one who is incandescent.
Back in 2002, I had been given a small replica of an icon of St Paul (that was commissioned by Archbishop Flynn for the Cathedral of St Paul in Minnesota). Paul was over at my place, and commented on it, and since St Paul is his namesake, I thought he should have it. (I learned today that he was named after Fr. Paul Marx, who met his mother when she was pregnant with him.) Now Paul has become something of an icon himself, a testimony to triumph through suffering: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Tonight, as dusk settles, the Church worldwide enters the Pauline year. One wonders at the mysterious providence of God. JPII enters the next life on the eve of Divine Mercy, and Paul seems to be standing at the doorway on the eve of the Pauline year. When, in God’s good time, he passes through, may the angels lead him into paradise.
Thank you, Paul, for burning brightly.
More on the Pauline year over at Amy’s.