Sooner or later, death comes for us all. We all must meet our Maker.
Probably, no one knew this better than New Orleans' retired Archbishop Phillip Hannan, who died early Thursday at 98. In World War II, he was a paratrooper chaplain on the front lines in bloody Europe, administering last rites of the Catholic Church to American GIs and German soldiers alike amid the chaos of the battlefield.
Think about that one for a moment. If you dare.
In 1963, as an auxiliary bishop in Washington, he delivered the eulogy for his slain friend John F. Kennedy. In 1968, as archbishop of New Orleans, he did the same for Bobby Kennedy.
Hannan came to New Orleans in the devastating wake of Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and, at 92, rode out the fury of Katrina in 2005. The archbishop knew death better than most.
THIS, as recounted in The Times-Picayune, is how the old archbishop, his body finally spent, began his journey home a few days ago:
On Saturday, with the end apparently near, the few people around the archbishop's bed included his brother, Jerry Hannan, 89, who had flown in from Bethesda, Md.; the archbishop’s nephew, Tom; his oldest and closest New Orleans friend, Alden “Doc” Laborde, the oil-field entrepreneur; Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle; restaurateur Klara Cvitanovich, who for years sent Hannan a daily take-out lunch from Drago’s; and a few others.
“It was an emotional time for all of us there,” Aymond said Thursday. “It was clear he knew some of what was going on.
“I gave no homily,” Aymond said. “I simply pointed at him and said he IS the living homily.
“He taught us in many ways how to live, but I think he taught us how to grow old gracefully.
“For a man who was independent, he became totally dependent on others, and never, ever complained about it.”
'Sounds good to me.'
Aymond said Hannan had already been anointed several times with the Sacrament of the Sick. This final Mass, the last of uncounted thousands in Hannan’s life, would be his last reception of the Eucharist.
In the early part of the ritual, Aymond and the others jointly confessed their sins in prayer, and as part of the rite, Aymond said he granted Hannan absolution from his sins in the name of Jesus.
Though weak and perhaps not entirely alert, Aymond said Hannan whispered a response.
They are what so far are his last recorded words:
He said: “Sounds good to me.”
“He was reassured, and knew God was forgiving him,” Aymond said.