Father Simeon Daly, OSB - Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and other Musings of an Aged Monk


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A Moment of Crisis<
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It is now some years since Fr. Cajetan White died. I trust it is not out of place to reveal a rather private moment in our lives. It is a story that I shared with very, very few until now.

Fr. Cajetan and I were friends, good friends. Our friendship began back when was young monk in the community, before his final vows and ordination. It was music that brought us together. He was an accomplished musician. For years he had played the organ, but he was partial to flute. We were able to find some music for clarinet and flute which over the years we played together. Sometimes even in church.

He not infrequently came to me for counsel, but for almost 20 years we worked together in the library. In these encounters we seldom referred to the fact that he was subject to epileptic moments as a result of and accident he had as a boy. For the most part it was kept under control by medication.

One morning in the library he had some rather bizarre body movements that made him look stoned. I suspected immediately that he was having a mild spell. I called Br. Daniel. He asked me to try to get him to his cell and he would stop by to look at him. Trying to help him to his cell was no easy task. He showed no resistance, but he had a hard time keeping his balance, and even putting one foot in front of the other.

Br. Daniel came and assessed that it was indeed a small episode of his epileptic condition and prescribed bed rest for the rest of the day.

I came and went throughout the day just to see if he were all right. After my own supper I went to check to make sure a tray had been brought to him. It had, and he was in the process of eating as I came in. I sat in his chair and we visited on a very superficial level. Without being quite sure when it began, I noticed that he seemed to be choking. How many moments it was that I continued to sit there, I do not know, but I suddenly became convinced that he was in real trouble. I was wearing my habit at the time, I remember. .It wasn’t very decorous, but I jumped up on his bed, got him turned around on his side and performed the “Heimlich Maneuver,” forcing his diaphragm in and up. After the second or third try, she spit out a rather large piece of meat that had stuck in his throat. Perhaps it was the awkwardness of cutting up the meat in bed or defective muscle action that brought on the problem. We were both convinced that without my action, late though it was, he would have choked to death.

I have had no other comparable experience in my life. He lived a good number of years after that before he lost his life in a more severe epileptic attack.
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