Ramon M. Morales passed away Monday September 18, 2017 surrounded by family in one of the most glorious demonstrations of God’s unending Mercy. Ramon, a beloved Husband, Father, Son, Brother and Uncle finally surrendered to his weakened heart that was broken after the loss of his beloved wife, Mary, six years prior. Ramon was a man of many words and always contributing with his uplifting wisdom. Born in 1924, Ramon lived to the wonderful age of 93. He maintained his independence and his gusto for life until his very last moment with us. Ramon was a World War II veteran who served his country in the United States Army Air Forces as an Aviator Midrange Gunner and Radio Operator and served in the United States Merchant Marine. He proudly worked on NASA Space Missions under the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs until the first man on the moon landed in 1969.
Ramon, being the boisterous spirit that he was, took his civic duty to vote and the right to voice his opinion as two of the most important privileges this great country bestows upon its citizens. He carried out several letter campaigns and wrote over 500 letters to multiple administrations until he no longer could see the keys of his classic Underwood No.5 typewriter. Ramon remained committed to the country he loved and passed along to those who knew him a sense of responsibility to remain actively engaged to influence change.
There are several gifts my father gave me in his life but none as meaningful as the last gift he bestowed on us all. The first gift my father gave me was that he was a man of words: written words, spoken words, wise words and powerful words. He knew we each had a voice and felt we should use it. He helped me develop a respect for words and made sure I knew how the way we speak to one another could make people and even break people. He reminded us often that what we hear, read and write, what we consume in words, influences who and what we ultimately become. He made sure that what came out of his mouth or even his typewriter was encouraging and uplifting but most importantly that the words he chose were direct and honest. You see, my mom demonstrated for us the power that is in prayer but my dad demonstrated for us the power of our own voice. He showed us the power to reaffirm the positive through the words we choose to utter.
The second gift my father gave me was that he loved my mom the way he did. My father told me that the day he married my mom, she became everything to him. She became his wife, his best friend, his lover and life companion. There is a Christian way of prioritizing your life where God is number one, your spouse is number two, your kids are three and then everything else follows. For many people putting their spouse second to God and before their children is tough. It was not difficult for my parents. My sisters and I knew very well we were third for them both. Loving my mom the way he did was one of the greatest blessings he bestowed upon us. It made each of us a believer in love between a man and a woman. In a time when half of our marriages end in divorce, I knew love and marriage could truly exist because I lived them both.
But the greatest gift he gave me was in his last hours with us on Earth. When he first arrived at the hospital he had suffered his first heart attack and he was singing “Shall We Gather at The River” loudly and courageously as we entered the emergency room. Later he suffered a series of heart attacks and while he was having them he was singing and telling the nurses, “I’m not having a heart attack, I don’t need a doctor”. In the midst of his heart failure he was singing this hymn and in no pain. I had to eventually tell him that his angiogram showed all three major vessels of his heart were blocked and that the damage to his heart was too great to fix. I had to tell him that he would not be leaving the hospital. He answered me in his firm voice, “Then let’s get on with it. Forward we march”. I told him to wait because we needed to call family and in the most lucid and coherent way he began telling me phone numbers to dial. Our relatives would answer and he would say, “This is Ray and I’m dying. I wanted to say bye”. He was laughing and singing and telling me number and after number to call.
While making calls and family arriving he began to see things and reach out to people that no one else could see. He would talk to people I could not see. He would jump back and forth between what he was seeing and being there with me. He would say, “Mija am I sitting or am I standing because I can no longer feel the bed”. The entire time he was between this world and the next, he described what he was seeing. He saw his older brothers who passed before him, he saw his younger siblings my grandmother lost during the Great Depression and he saw his sister who had passed from cancer. He saw clouds and he even said he could see animals and doves. One time he came back and looked me straight in the eye and said, “It ended for me the day I had to kiss my wife goodbye”. I told him, “I know it did Dad”.
As Bishop gave him his last rites, my dad prayed with us and told me that I should have bought some conchas or some pan dulce cause a priest was visiting. Eventually he stopped being able to see the light above his hospital bed and he could no longer see us. He said he could only see clouds. Towards the final hour he was still laughing and talking with family at his bedside and family only he could see until he got too tired to speak. In his final moment, he reached out with his hand as if to take the hand of someone invisible to us. His niece, my cousin Rosie, who was standing at his bedside, caught his hand as he reached out. He then removed his oxygen mask and took his final breath.
He was gone but not without giving me this reaffirmation of my faith in our Lord. I take this experience as a gift from my Dad but it could have also been a gift directly from God to serve as a reminder that our life here and now does lead us into a life in the after. You can say it was the lack of oxygen from his failing heart that caused him to hallucinate. I question that logic because the hallucinations did not have to be those exact visions. Hallucinations can be of anything, he could have seen pink elephants but he didn’t.
We often see only the birth of a baby as a miracle but I learned from my father’s passing that death, as is life, is also a miracle. Thanks to my Father I got to witness death as the miracle that it truly is. I know now for certain that they do come for us; God comes for us in the end. Everything we have learned about the good shepherd coming back for us, that we have a place in His house, everything Psalm 23 tells us really is true. We do not go alone and I got to witness it through my Father’s closing eyes.
Thank you Dad for giving me this final gift and letting me see that Heaven really is real.