"He died in an act of perfect love to Jesus."
Confronted with illness, and even with the prospect of death, a cry often rises to God to ask for healing. And that is quite normal, because we are made for life and happiness. Such a cry becomes especially dramatic when the threat weighs on a young person.
But if, through a providential encounter with a person of intense faith, a profoundly loving person who becomes close and capable of accompanying the person step by step in the path of the offering of self with Christ, it can become a transforming experience and a passage to Light. And if this person helps to understand how such a gift of self to Jesus in faith and love can become a fruitful seed for others, then everything takes on a sense of eternity! " [if] a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,[…], it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24).
Such was the experience more than 30 years ago, lived by Stéphane Darveau. This young man found in Mother Julienne of the Rosary a unique spiritual friend and a delicate and constant support throughout his painful walk towards Eternal Life.
Let us take time to read this account made by Stéphane’s parents, Therese and Jacques that can help us discover this mysterious path of suffering and grace. Even if we are separated from this experience by several years, the message retains all its strength and significance. Because with Jesus, our great Friend,
"[...] death, is full of life within it".
- Félix Leclerc, La vie, l’amour, la mort
Stéphane Became a Child of Light
[Story of the illness and the departure of Stéphane Darveau, only son of Therese and Jacques Darveau]
Interview by Jean Beaudoin and published in the journal, “Je Crois”, January 1993, vol. 34, no. 1. (An approximate translation)
Therese and I had been married for ten years. We were a happy couple, and even spoiled by Divine Providence. We always hoped for the arrival of a child. Finally, on April 12, 1974, our wish was fulfilled. The birth of Stéphane was as if Jesus had presented himself and asked us to keep him and love him, but also telling us: "One day I will come and take him back." We were proud of our little boy and we lived with him twelve beautiful years.
One morning in February, 1986, Stéphane got up, complaining of pains in his stomach. In the evening we took him to the hospital. The doctors told us that he had appendicitis and that he would be operated the next evening. The operation was to last about half an hour. He would be in his room about an hour and a half later. However, more than seven hours went by without any news.
From Despair to Abandonment
I can tell you that the time was very long waiting in the corridor of the hospital. We were wondering what was going on. When the doctor came to us asking if Stéphane was our only child, we faced up to the worst. It is then that he announced that Stéphane was suffering from a very serious illness, "Burkitt's Lymphoma". Then he added: "We have to act quickly." He was giving him one week to live.
This news plunged us into darkness. Everything that had been built up in the previous twelve years had collapsed. Anguish, anxiety and despair seized us. We were in complete havoc inside. Then the famous question: "Why does this happen to us?” And we had no answer. Our faith took a blow. We did not even remember that Jesus had told us, "One day I will take him back." But the Father knew that we had Jesus and Mary as companions and he did not delay to send us the necessary help to open our hearts and then guide us.
In the week that followed, we went to the Dominican Sisters convent to meet Mother Julienne, the foundress. Upon meeting her, Therese and I immediately recognized the presence of Jesus in her. She received us with simplicity and humility. Her eyes were filled with love and she listened to us in silence. She understood the purpose of our visit and knew that we wanted Stéphane to be healed. After listening to us, she simply sayed: "Healings exist. We will ask for one, but in accordance to the will of the Father," and she taught us to pray. When we left her, we felt as if there was a spring gushing up within us. We could not inform Stéphane about all this and tell him that as soon as he could leave the hospital, we would go and see her together.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments were going well. Stéphane was able to leave the hospital in early March and we took the opportunity to meet Mother Julienne. A special friendship grew between Stéphane and her, not simply a friendship between people who have known each other for years, but a spiritual friendship.
Stéphane continued to come with us to the convent. In our company, he discovered the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and conversed with Mother Julienne, whom he liked to call his “great friend” (sa grande amie). She talked to him about heaven, knowing that he might not last long given the seriousness of his illness. He would listen with great fervour, as if he already foresaw the happiness that was awaiting him. With her, he advanced towards the Father. When he returned to the hospital, the chaplain gave him the prayer of Abandonment. Stéphane asked us to say it with him every day. We could see that he was growing spiritually, loving Jesus and offering him all his sufferings.
One morning, at 6:30, the phone rang. It was Stéphane. He asked me to call the Dominican Sisters. He wanted to have a large medal of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. He had noticed it during our visit. In vain, I explain that it was too early, but to no avail; he wanted his medal. Before I went to the hospital, I called at the convent, and as usual, they answered me gently: "Yes, Jacques, come; we'll prepare it for you." When we arrived at the hospital, before saying hello, Stéphane asked his mother: "Have you got it? Therese handed it to him and he took it, looked at it and said, "Ah, how beautiful it is!" He kisses it and laid the medal on his heart.
This medal remained beside him in his hospital room and we felt that he had a special connection with it. When he looked at it, his eyes changed. We saw that he loved Jesus and was letting himself be transformed by him.
A testament in Favour of the poor...
One day, in the afternoon, Mother Julienne came to see him in the hospital. When his “great friend” arrived, Therese and I left the room. Stéphane wanted to be alone with her. After she had left, Stéphane dictated his will to us: he wanted to be cremated, that his ashes be put in a cardboard box because Jesus was poor. He wanted to be exposed one day so all his friends could come and see him. He told us to give a certain amount of money to his “great friend” for the poor children in Haiti. He was sad. He asked his mother, "Mom, what are you going to do with all my things?" And Therese replied: "We are going to give them to the poor." He made a sign that manifested his acknowledgment.
That evening in the room he was joyful; he smiled, he wanted to rock himself. We put him in his chair and he sang with a smile: "Jesus, what do you want me to do? What do you want from me?” One could feel that the living spirit of Jesus was in him, that Jesus carried him in his arms. He loved his “great friend”. He knew that she was sent by Jesus to help him advance towards the Father. He was eager to see Jesus and heaven.
Soon, Stéphane no longer wanted to remain alone. One felt anxiety in him. He knew that Jesus would come to get him, but he did not know how it would happen. He suffered a lot of anxiety and anguish. According to what we could see, he was experiencing what Jesus had known in Gethsemane. Anguish was choking us too. I confided in Jesus and one Saturday after mass, I went to Stephane's room to talk to him. I told him that Jesus was coming to meet him, that he was going to see him; that Jesus is love, peace and gentleness and that all of us who love him would be there: "Jesus will not jump on you and grasp you by the throat, he will not steal you away. No, when he comes, you will recognize him, he will come with love. "With his head, he made a sign that said yes and after that, everything was more serene.
One Sunday, around 1 pm, he was suffering terribly. He asked us to leave the room. There was a doctor with him, and two nurses, and they could not control his pain. When the pain was calmed, a young nurse who was very fond of Stéphane asked him why he wanted us out of the room. Stéphane replied that he did not want us to see him suffer. He wanted to suffer alone with Jesus. He offered his sufferings for the young priests so dear to Mother Julienne’s heart, for the poor children, the children beaten by their parents, those who are searching for Jesus and want to know and love Him.
Always Serene Despite the Suffering
One evening, before leaving the hospital, I put my hand on the head of Stéphane who was asleep. He had lost all his hair; I called him "my little coco". I said simply in my heart: "Stéphane, this Jesus of peace and sleep that is in you, transfer it onto papa and maman so that we may recover. And from that moment on, we had good nights sleep. This was one of the important graces we received during this ordeal.
Stéphane was completely abandoned to the Father. He suffered in silence. He never complained. His young body was broken by the disease, but his face remained intact. He knew that Jesus was going to liberate him.
On September 5, 1986, Stéphane was suffering a lot, so much so that his face became waxed. He managed to sit up in his bed, he took me by the neck and said, "Dad, it hurts so much!" I felt myself melt next to him and the only words I was able to say were: "Love and Glory to the Trinity through the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus." And at that moment he loosened his arms and reclined on his bed with his hands clasped on his back.
The doctors told us that the end was approaching; we could feel it because Stephane was no longer with us. One sensed that he was already in contact with his Jesus, and strangely enough, also with Mother Julienne. Besides, she told us that she had begun to feel Stéphane's call at suppertime and that it became so strong that she asked to come to the hospital. When she arrived, she approached the bed and said, "Stephane, it's Mother Julienne." He smiled at her and managed to say "yes". She went on: "Stéphane, in the name of Jesus, I come to deliver you from your sufferings." Then Jesus came to fetch Him in a gesture of peace, love, humility. Stéphane gave his last breath in the arms of his “great friend” and in the company of all those who loved him.
At that moment I said: “Love and Glory to the Trinity through the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus ". His face became radiant and as a heritage, he left us a smile of love. His face, so tense with suffering, had become so beautiful. For us, Stéphane had become a child of light.
Now we knew that Stéphane accompanies us and despite our ever-present pain, we draw from him and through his intercession the strength that enables us to work with young people. The experience of his departure has taught us to abandon ourselves to the will of the Father, to trust in him.