Heroic Death: The last days in the life of Rev. Msgr. Vincent Foy

+ Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction at Msgr. Foy’s Visitation

Many are deeply missing Msgr. Vincent Foy because he was so faithful, holy and full of God’s love.

As his life was holy, so Msgr. Foy’s last days were sanctified.  

On Sunday, March 5, 2017 he may have aspirated on a small piece of food at lunch. By Monday, he was on oxygen and had laboured breathing. He was told he could either go to emergency or he would get a chest X-ray at his long-term care residence that day. He had recovered previously from chocking on things. His botched and unnecessary tonsillectomy that a doctor convinced him to undergo when he was in his 50s sometimes made him cough and made things go down the wrong way.

Then he found out that X-rays were not done until Tuesdays. He asked for as early an X-ray as possible. It was done in the afternoon. 

On Tuesday, March 7, a friend from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars called and came by.  Friends waited with Msgr. Foy, as he gasped for breath, for his X-ray results.  With Msgr. sitting in his wheelchair with an oxygen tank and nasal prongs, we prayed the most beautiful prayers for the dying in the book “The Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook” by Fr. Lassance. We prayed the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  

The X-ray results needed to be analyzed at another hospital and were supposed to come in by Tuesday evening. They did not arrive until the next day, Wednesday, March 8. The X-rays did not show any changes since the one he had had several years ago. However, we were told that sometimes small aspirations might not show up on an X-ray. If there was a blood clot in the leg that had moved up to the lungs, it would only show up on a scan done at the hospital and the treatment would be a blood thinner, which could be given now at his residence just in case. There was hope that he would get through this crisis. Since there was a possibility that there may have been a blood clot, but it was unsure, trying a blood thinner was a way to take care of that just in case.  A side effect was that he coughed up blood.

As Msgr. Foy was gasping and struggling to keep breathing on oxygen, he bravely suffered attacks that caused him even more pain. His condition then took a turn for the worse. The hope of recovery was dashed. He said “Don’t worry about it” as we suffered together. We pray in the Hail Mary “Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”  He pointed to a Rosary ring indicating to continue in prayer.  Through everything, he was an example of faithful perseverance in love. 

He held and squeezed the hands of visitors. He blessed and prayed with us. It was hard for his friends to hold back the tears. Our saint and hero was heading home, though he gladly would have stayed and suffered with and for us and the Church.

The on-call physician told Msgr. he was a very ill. We were told to prepare for death.  She said: “I think it is his time. I think he is dying. Emergency is an awful place to die. We can keep him comfortable here surrounded by those who love and care for him. It looks like he may have aspiration pneumonia and some heart failure.”

On Palliative care, we were told he would not last long.  We had to let Msgr. Foy know that he would be going home to God within two weeks. It was heartbreaking. The chaplain came and gave him the Sacrament of the Annointing.

He was in such terrible agony that the nurse gave him hydormorphone (not morphine but 10 times stronger).  The pain medication was not working and due to the agony a sedative was given only on the first night. Before he fell asleep, I told him “You are going to Heaven soon” and the nurse said that he smiled and went out like a light.

The doctors felt he may now be approaching his time.  Palliative care meant he would be kept comfortable. Then he found out that he would not be allowed to eat or drink and that IV fluids would fill his lungs and make him suffocate more, since he seemed to have aspiration pneumonia.

The physicians, nursing and palliative care staff employed by Providence were wonderful. They informed, guided, hustled and were there each step of the way.

Since Msgr. Foy had had a tracheotomy previously and there would have been some scar tissue, intubation in emergency was not the route to be travelled down.  The doctor said that if he went to acute care he could wind up on kidney dialysis and IV fluids were contraindicated and dangerous anyway. IV antibiotics would make his suffering worse and he was in End of Life care at this stage.

We began to prepare for death.  Msgr. Foy has been receiving the Sacrament or the Anointing of the sick regularly. We requested that he also receive the Apostolic Blessing, which we were told could help bring a soul straight to Heaven. 

A friend reminded us that death is precious and suggested making a vigil at the bedside. We did not want to miss this precious moment.

Vigil for the Dying at the Bedside of Msgr. Foy

The Jewish tradition of never leaving the bedside of the dying is of great value, not only to the dying person but also to those about to be bereaved. How helpless and how guilty we must feel when we hear of the death of a loved one, especially if no one was there to ease the fear of uncertainty and the pain of separation…  The Jewish community provided reassurance that everything appropriate was done. 

We were blessed to remain in vigil with Msgr. Foy around the clock until his death.

On March 11, the following email was sent to some friends:

Dear Friends,

Our dear friend and most holy priest of God, Msgr. Vincent Foy, holding up his priestly Chalice of Suffering for souls, advanced from palliative into end of life care last night.

Please pray for him in his final agony as his soul is being prepared to meet Our Lord.

He received the Sacraments.  Barring a miracle, we are told he will be dying soon.  We are not sure if he will last a week.

If you want to drop by to pray quietly with us, you are welcome.  We will let you know by email when he passes into eternal life.

Thank you for your prayers and friendship with Msgr. Foy.

Prayer vigil for the dying is here at: Msgr. Foy’s Room 414, Houses of Providence, 3276 St. Clair Ave East, Toronto, ON, M1L 1W1

End of email.

Someone had a dream that they were praying that Msgr. would be taken straight to Heaven and a light opened up in the Heavens above to receive the prayer.

After the second laboured night, we began to invite more friends to join at a bedside vigil of prayer.  Early the next morning a recently married couple arrived and stayed until late that evening in prayer. Some stayed overnight, sleeping on chairs. We had visits from several palliative care music therapists.  Angels helped. 

We prayed, cried, laughed and accompanied our hero Msgr. Foy. He was able to stay in his own room for Palliative Care.  We were able to use the Palliative care facilities over on the other side for families.  We went for some counsel and a listening ear.

A family of home-schoolers and arrived with the grandmother and stayed for hours at the bedside. The son who would like to become a priest placed a special crucifix from the holy land into the hand of Msgr. Foy to grasp upon which he clung to.

Over the next few days about twenty Priests, including our Cardinal and a Deacon visited and prayed, blessed, anointed, administered the Sacraments to Msgr. Foy.

About fifty other friends dropped in to pray with us, some driving many hours to be with our dear Msgr.

The Sisters of Life visited and prayed the Divine Office with him.  We were comforted and consoled by their presence. It was a very special time for all.

Thank you to all who visited and prayed with and for Msgr. Foy.

Prayers for the dying were said.

Msgr. Foy was able to have the consolation of the Mass being aired EWTN in his own room.

Msgr. Foy Went Home to God

This was a holy death. 

On Friday March 12, the palliative care nurse thought that he might not last through the weekend.  

Msgr. Foy received Holy Communion, in the form of a tiny particle of a consecrated Host, as a drop of the Precious Blood, each day until his death. 

On Saturday, March 13, we were told that he had about 24 hours left. His oxygen levels were going down.  We called a religious to find out when Holy Communion would arrive. Some children and friends prayed the Rosary and other prayers with Msgr. Foy over the speakerphone. Friends who could not make it to the vigil called and prayed with him over the phone.

A relative brought some food to caregivers. Jesus arrived in Holy Communion around 9:15pm. We thought that we needed to wait an hour to keep the fast, so we had to wait and thus were enabled to make a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration with him right before he passed. The Rosary was recited, hymns were sung and each received a miniscule or small piece of the host. 

After receiving Holy Communion it seemed that great joy, lightness and brightness began to fill the room and the three of us with Msgr. Foy felt so filled with happiness that we began to laugh. We were joking about Fr. Ted Colleton and some funny stories. We were singing. One friend’s stomach began to hurt due to laughing so hard talking about pro-life bumper stickers etc.  We began to sing more hymns.  

It was around 10:30 pm that Msgr. sighed very loudly into the oxygen mask. We wondered if maybe all the jubilation was keeping him awake and whether to take his hearing aid out. We were told hearing was one of the last things to go and we didn’t want him to miss out. His colour had suddenly changed but the oxygen mask was on and the machine was still going on the highest setting. 

He passed so gently and sweetly and we were feeling such jubilation at that time that we kept singing and did not notice. When the nurse came in to check on him she announced that he had died. The big sigh he had given seemed to have been the final release that takes place right after a person dies.

The staff from the morgue downstairs was called. In the middle of the night, his body was wrapped up and moved to the morgue, we processed and sang hymns:  “Oh When the Saints, Go Marching in”, “Swing low sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me home, swing low sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me home.”  The group of staff along with us experienced the joy with us. It felt like we were walking with him towards Heaven.

The mourning had not set in and the shock came later. Friends slept on the benches in the palliative care.  We called the funeral home and they came to pick him up. The next morning, all of his clothes for burial were that he had made ready in his closet, including the rochet vestment garment his mother made by hand, were delivered to the Paul O’Connor Funeral Home.  

A friend had a vivid dream that Fr. Ted Colleton and Fr. Oliver Moloney came to take Msgr. Foy to Heaven: The three walked along, in their clerical garb, towards Heaven and they were laughing joking.  Then Jesus appeared in the dream and said something like: Do you know what is wrong with the world these days? Lack of Love… People are mistaking sex for love.  Then Msgr. Foy said to the person having the dream, hold on, hold on, you are coming to Heaven soon.” The friend was comforted in believing that Msgr. was safe and happy now with Jesus.

Some of his last words of comfort were:  “I’ll take you with me.” When he could no longer speaker, he pointed to the Rosary and to the Mass on TV.

May souls find the joy that filled the room after his final moments in adoration and receiving Holy Communion as his soul so greatly desired God and Heaven. As Msgr. Vincent Foy continues to intercede for the salvation and sanctification of souls now, may we look forward with the hope of meeting this most faithful priest again soon!

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