Today is one year since the birth of our littlest Anthony and today, on his first birthday as a memorial, I would like to share the words spoken by his father this past Thursday as we lay Anthony to rest.
These are the words spoken at Anthony’s funeral mass – a tribute to your many faith filled prayers that sustained the littlest life of Anthony Emmanuel Arritola and his family.
In Loving Memory of:
ANTHONY EMMANUEL ARRITOLA
July 8, 2005 – July 2, 2006
Before our son was born, a Eulogy was pre-written for his gestation by the ones who make rules for this Earthly life. His history of life was predetermined by man, to be unworthy of surviving a life that would amount to anything. Sixteen months ago, this eulogy read something like this:
Your pregnancy will not come to fruition so you are allowed to take control to ensure that it will not interrupt your earthly life. If it is born, it will not be able to sustain its own life outside the womb so it is OK if you choose not to feed it. It will not get hungry nor want. It will not have the mental ability to do these things, it may only grow with the increased probability that it will not survive and you will be devastated -so it is OK to refuse any surgical or medical intervention because this will not help with statistics.
Philippians 4: 6 – 7
‘Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and
petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’.
Matthew 11: 28 – 30
‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light’.
Naturally, we mourned the loss of our infant son. So when did we snap out of it? I’m not sure we did. Our human desires for our future, our expectations for our family and our children’s hopes of growing and playing in love with their littlest brother were torn down with no hope of recovery. All because of the pre-written eulogy.
MENTAL NOTE TO SELF: NEVER START A LIFE WITH DEATH – YOU ARE SURE TO FAIL at living!
Thankfully, we have been taught to teach our children in the moral law taught to us by our faith and our fathers . all have the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This is where Anthony’s story picks up. His is a story of more than just standing up for rights. His is a story of more than just life, but of the dignity of man and the reverence we have towards God for allowing our bodies to be earthen hosts of our Creators heavenly Spirit.
Anthony’s life is a testimony sent to test the minds and hearts of men. God remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
But in his short 11 month period of time from birth to death . he lived and he lived abundantly. Anthony shared a gift with our family that allowed us to be surrounded by Gods grace. He restored our brokenness in our family. He healed his brothers of unseen inner pains; he helped us learn more about how to love.
Sam Keen says,
‘We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly’
John 14: 2 – 3
‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be’.
So here we are at the inevitable, a day that proves to the medical community that Anthony did not survive. But I testify Anthony did live a life that amounted to something. Against the expectations of the larger medical community, Anthony perplexed even the most learned of the specialists. He came back from life 13 times his past two weeks alone, not to mention a number of times before then. All on his own, all atypical and all simply quite amazing. He was a strong man for having such a frail body.
Anthony was given more than just his right to life. He was given the moral dignity of a sacred soul made in Gods image. He was surrounded by love of God, his family, friends and even strangers. He was lifted in prayer from boys and girls to priests and nuns and even those who privately confessed to us they had fallen away from God. They sent us their amazing stories for why they chose to have faith and pray for Anthony. Anthony was a happy well loved little man.
Anthony received countless prayers and more importantly, our family has born witness to how God touches souls through his little ones. Oh how much we can learn from these littlest of souls. WE don’t exactly understand how, we just watched and pondered the events in our hearts. Through these trials and lessons in life, we have come to know and love all of you. And You ALL have remained in our prayers.
The support our family has received from family members, fellow parishioners, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and total strangers has been very much appreciated by our family. In addition to our closest friends and family, additional prayer chains were sprung off by people whom you shared Anthony’s story, or who have come to visit our website. It has all been a blessing we were fortunate to be a part of.
Like the greatness that God is . Anthony’s life story sprang amazingly out into the world and only God truly knows how many have been touched. We are blessed to have been encouraged along our journey by so many faith filled people. I can say with an abiding confidence that the grace flowing through the Body of Christ in his Church has carried us along a journey from crushing grief and sorrow to feelings filled with joy and a calm reality.
This Faith of ours, this glorious Catholic Faith, has for centuries boldly proclaimed that an infant who is baptized and then dies, as our precious Anthony has, is carried directly to the waiting arms of God to enjoy the Beatific Vision and live in Paradise forever. We as Catholic parents are called by our vocation of marriage to strive above all else to work toward helping our children arrive in Heaven someday. The Church assures us that our baby is now in Heaven. How can we not be filled with joy?
John 19: 26 – 27
‘When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother “Woman behold your son.” Then he looked at his disciple and said “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home’.
At the same time, the Church gently encourages us to embrace sorrow. The night that Anthony passed away, we were praying the scriptural rosary during his final moments. When Anthony’s spirit left us, and as my wife sat in the rocking chair holding his lifeless little body, I remembered that James-Christian had given Anthony his scapular for Anthony to wear (just to make sure!). James found comfort in the promise of the scapular for his little brother. The promise of the scapular implies that Mary will intercede to ensure that the wearer of the Scapular obtains the grace of final perseverance that is of dying in a state of grace. I can just picture Mary coming down and escorting Anthony to meet her son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God is good. He allows us to share in a small way with Mary and all of her suffering. The Church teaches us not to waste suffering but to use it as an opportunity to show our dependence on God.
One might think that it would be difficult to eulogize the short life of an 11 month child, but let me share some insight, regarding the people Anthony has touched over the past 16 months.
We have read close to if not over 200 emails from persons around the world as far as Switzerland, Egypt and Australia and Canada and even as close as Alaska, California and Mexico, not to mention the neighbors of the southeastern United States. I’ve heard parents expressing their desire to run home and hold close their own children. I’ve heard reassessments of how incredibly precious each and every little life is that God gives us. I’ve heard recognitions of how truly short, life is, and how suddenly it can end, which in turn resulted in personal conversions of faith or inquiries about God, faith and eternal life. I have seen faith strengthened, faith renewed, and I have seen families reunited. My wife has had the privilege of witnessing the power of Anthony’s complex diagnosis baffle the medical community and see them either push away from him as an enigma or draw closer to marvel at his miraculous nature.
In short, our baby’s limited life and recent death has prompted some wonderful things. This, then, is our family prayer – ‘We gladly offer our baby back to You God and endure the sorrowful pain of missing the soul we have come to love, but if our offering prompts just one soul to grow closer to You, we offer Anthony with greater joy than our sorrow’.
It just so happens, Anthony wouldn’t settle for just one. In addition to multitudes around the world, we have also born witness to a closer conversion.
Big brother Lorenzo, how much you’ve grown my son. It has been truly beautiful to have witnessed your spiritual growth, and how much you love Anthony.
James Christian, your compassion and love that you have shared towards your little brother are an example for all to marvel.
Tray, you are Anthony’s oldest brother, and have demonstrated incredible courage, leadership, and unshakable faith. Your humble protection was meek yet noticeable.
We love you guys with all our hearts.
Helen Keller once said,
‘Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved’.
We have so many treasured memories of you Anthony:
Your rodeo style pulling out of your NG tube to sway around like a lasso.
The many smiles you graced us with.The silly one & only rolling giggle you shared with us when mom tickled you during a doctor’s visit. I pray we never forget that beautiful sound and the memory of your puffy smiling cheeks. Your beautiful long eye lashes that were the envy of every woman. The warm relaxing showers we took together and your calming sigh. Playing toesies with your stinky feet. Singing songs out of tune while you slept. And lastly, whispering ‘I Love You’ in your ear every night as you lay in your crib asleep. Today we whisper to you again, We Love You, Anthony.
Anthony Emmanuel your courage and strength inspired many, and made me a better man. I will never forget how you called me ‘Da’. We will forever love you, and I can’t wait until we meet again.
And finally, to you my beautiful bride whose arms ache for our beautiful little angel, you have sustained us through all of this unselfishly and with dignity and humility in imitation of our Blessed Mother. I know well that your heart is aching and I love you.
Romans 8: 18, 28 – 31
‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. We know that all things work for good for those who work for God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his first born among my many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?’
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!
REST IN PEACE ANTHONY
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