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‘He’s right there in the center of me’

Mike McDonald volunteered at the food pantry of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Imperial, Missouri every Thursday. He exuded the joy of a man who was deeply in love with Christ.

“On Thursdays, [he was] there, cold or not, and he sits there and he checks the people off and he talks to everybody,” recalled Sister Rosemary Battice, director of Religious Education and Formation at St. Josephs. “And, he’s dying.”

After a hard-fought battle with cancer, McDonald passed away on May 16, the Vigil of Pentecost. He left behind six children, 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. St. Joseph’s paid tribute to Mike’s life with a touching video. Though he knew he was dying, McDonald found refuge in Christ at the end of his life, and exhibited a faith that was contagious to those around him.

“Mike would say this journey really began in earnest when his wife died,” said Father Dan Shaughnessy, pastor of St. Joseph’s.

One of McDonald’s daughters, Robyn Marval, said she saw a change in her father when her mom died. “He became more of a loving father, where he verbally tells us how much he loves us all the time,” she said.

Another of his daughters, Chrissy Wilson, said she’s been given peace knowing that her dad’s faith in God is so strong.

After McDonald’s wife passed away, he renewed his faith in Christ and took the time to truly learn about him and foster a relationship with him, which he said was the “best thing in his life.”

“To me, he’s everything. I live for him, I think about him, no matter where I’m at, no matter what I do, I always put him somewhere in there,” McDonald said. “I’m not scared of dying at this point because I think he’s looking out for me and taking care of me. He’s awesome…he’s something.”

I can’t imagine the pain that he had suffered. He didn’t deserve that. I do, but he didn’t.”

Despite the doctor’s orders to not go out in the cold weather, McDonald would trek through the freezing temperatures and snow to go to Mass. Near the end of his life, his cancer got worse, making it painful for him to take the Eucharist, but that didn’t stop him from doing it; just the opposite, in fact.

“The cancer has re-emerged and metastasized to the point where the Eucharist gets stuck right at his heart in his esophagus,” Father Shaughnessy said. “It’s really painful for hours, but he sees that as a privilege.”

“That’s the best pain in the world,” McDonald said. “It’s got to be, because I know he’s right there. He didn’t move up or down, he’s right there in the center of me, right there by my heart.”

McDonald would often reflect upon Christ’s passion and be awestruck by his sacrifice for mankind.

“You look at the cross, what he has done for you…he has to love you,” McDonald said. “I used to ask him to give me his pain, but I don’t think I can endure it. I can’t imagine the pain that he had suffered. He didn’t deserve that. I do, but he didn’t. I try to give him whatever I can.”

And indeed, it would seem that McDonald gave everything he had to the Lord, until his every last breath.

“If you just give him a chance, he gives you more than what you give him. He’s my Lord and my God. There’s nothing he can’t do.”

Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.
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