My Saturday story was about Armand Nirgro, an 83-year-old Spokane Jesuit who has led retreats all over the world, including in India and Rome for Mother Teresa and her order of sisters.
He has early stage Alzheimer's, and The Ministry Institue in Spokane, which he founded decades ago as Mater Dei, then a seminary for older men called to the priesthood, is capturing his memories and legacy. He is being videotaped, and the Institute— which now offers spiritual renewal for clergy and lay people — is asking people to send in their memories.
I've known Nigro all my life. He was friends with my parents and also, like my mom, traces his early roots to Spokane's turn-of-the-20th century Italian immigrant community.
I sat in on an hour-long video sesssion for the story. A few end-of-life lessons were learned that day.
1) The more honest we are about an Alzheimer's diagnosis, as Nigro is, the better it is for the people who love you. It gives them time to say the words now.
2) We can hope for a certain ending but then let go when our ending doesn't happen as planned. Nigro walked me to my car after the video session and said he hopes and prays he'll die soon. He said, “I wish I could hear Jesus' footsteps behind me.” But he is willing to let it unfold.
In a retreat he did for my women's group several years ago, he suggested this prayer each morning:
“Whatever death you forsee, I accept it.”'
(Colin Mulvany, S-R photo)