I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
I have told this story before but on the Feast of his death I decided to print it again.
Eight years ago today Michael Patrick Fallon passed away while in seminary after having a heart attack from a heart defect he had had since childhood. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in about 20 years.
It was the early 90’s and I was in college in Washington, D.C. He was dating my friend so we were friends with one another. Michael had battled his demons. They were demons of addiction. He was in AA and was trying to remain sober. Doing this in college at the time was hard. I tried to be supportive.
One morning he called me and told me he needed to borrow money for his anti-depressant medication. I lent him $10.
Later in the day his girlfriend called me to see if I could check on him as she was not on campus with us and I lived in a dorm nearby. She was worried about him. Before I went over I called him. He answered the phone and began crying. He confessed to me that he had taken the money I had given him for medication and used it to buy alcohol. I believe he had taken drugs too. He was very ashamed and was calling himself stupid. I decided I should go over to his room to help him calm down.
I was not prepared for the state he was in when I entered the room. He let me in and began banging his head and fists against the wall repeating how stupid he was. I could see he was tormented by his mistake. I grabbed the phone (the old kind that was hooked to the wall), and called his AA sponsor.
When I lifted my head Michael had a knife. He told me he was going to kill himself. I responded, “NO!”
Then he threatened to kill me. Though that sounds horrifying, I never actually believed in my heart that he would hurt me. He continued to wave the knife and punch the wall.
All the noise alerted the Resident Assistant. The RA came to the door and asked me if everything was okay. I said, “no” and informed him of what was going on. The RA called the police.
The Police sent in the SWAT team. The building was evacuated and I was inside the room as he deteriorated. The RA convinced Michael to let me out of the room if he came in. I don’t even remember the RA’s name, but he traded places with me. Yes, I said, he traded places with me. There are angels among us. I was never able to thank him. I was whisked out by SWAT who had snipers on a neighboring building. Eventually they were able to trade the knife for a cigarette and they carried him away. I was left a little terrified.
A year later, a clean and sober Michael came into one of the Lecture Hall classrooms I was in. He sat next to me he handed me a $10 bill and said, “Susan, I am so sorry.” I told him I forgave him and I told him that my wish for him was to live a good life and be happy. I never saw him again. I often think about this and the courage it took him to do this; admit his sin and ask for forgiveness. This is something that is so rare these days. And even back then God compelled me to extend the hand of mercy towards him.
I had prayed for Michael to recover and get better. He did. I don’t think I had absorbed at the time what it had done to me. I thought I had forgiven him, but I don’t know if in my soul I had. I was traumatized. This experience coupled with a mugging and witnessing a shooting would eventually make me flee the city and move south. A counselor would later diagnose me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I lived with panic attacks and depression on and off for awhile. I believe this contributed to my post partum depression.
I never realized how trauma can open the door for the demons of fear to grab hold of you. I would often lash out at people in anger. Anger because I was afraid of being hurt again. I was living in chains.
It was in realizing the power of forgiveness, true forgiveness from the depths of my soul, that I was set free from the demons of fear.
I had to forgive Michael and mean it, and I did. I had to forgive the muggers, the murderer, even the CITY; the city that for me had bred violence, vitriol and fear. I FORGIVE WASHINGTON, DC. Please understand I know this is not everyone’s experience of that city, but it was mine. I can now visit there with a peaceful heart.
When we forgive, we are free. Panic, depression and anger no longer consume me. I am loved and I believe God is a good father.
Michael passed away after having recovered from his own demons. He had made his way to seminary and was going to be a Priest. His father told me of how he spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. His father also told me that his only wish for his children was that they die in a state of grace. Michael did. Though his father was sorrowful, he also was grateful, grateful because his son knew Christ. He had peace, even in living through the death of a child. It is the kind of peace only Christ, especially in the Eucharist can bring; even in death, you can know your child is well.
Reflecting back on my life, I fully believe that God allowed me to be in that room with Michael for a reason. It was for me and it was for him. For him, because I truly believe if I had not been there that night, I don’t know if he would have made it out alive and he was able to receive the great gift of God’s mercy. For me, part of that night and my further journey brought me to my knees to know the Lord and all He means to us.
That meeting with Michael, one that contributed to me leaving Washington, D.C., it was a blessing. His life changed and so did mine. I moved, I met my husband, I have 3 beautiful children. Michael played a part in my journey. When I heard that he was in the seminary when he passed, though I was extremely sad about his passing, I rejoiced that he was in the seminary because that meant that before he passed he had made it home. He found his calling. We both found the Grace of the Sacraments. How Awesome! I know that when he passed, he was able to meet the Divine Mercy of Jesus who looked upon him and said, “Well done, my Good and Faithful Servant.” This was ALWAYS my prayer for Michael. In heaven he is whole and perfect, he is surrounded by a love we cannot comprehend. I am reminded that God knows all the hairs on each of our heads and He is holding us in the palm of His hand. We just have to open our eyes to it. I also realize that God knows the bigger picture. I could never have imagined the blessed life I lead today when I was standing in that room. I could never have imagined that Michael would have found his way to God in the seminary. God really does have a plan for each one of us.