Death of Joseph

“St. Joseph never preached, but he gave his entire life to the service of Jesus and died in His arms. If Jesus cried over Lazarus, must he not have cried over the death of St. Joseph?”

-St. Peter Julian Eymard 

Everything stood still except a single light flickering in the corner. The bed, mere blankets on the floor, had been twisted and disturbed throughout the night, but since then, gentle and loving hands had re-folded the blankets and arranged them delicately underneath the exhausted man. The top blanket, which had been tossed into a dusty corner, was now washed, dried, and resting freshly on him once again. 

The bed was all too familiar. More and more, Joseph would spend his time lying here. When he was younger, he never slept so much. A devoted husband with little money, he worked day and night to provide for his wife and child. Even in his current state, he could still remember sleepless nights in his workshop, tired eyes, cramped hands, and aching feet. He never chose to stop on his own. His habit had been to work until his wife encouraged him to rest, but as time went on, Jesus grew stronger and Joseph lost the vitality of his youth. Sometimes his body got the final say, no matter what he wanted. And so, he and Mary spent more and more time here in this room, resting, sleeping, praying. Then one day, he couldn’t even lift himself up anymore. 

Mary sat at his head. Her delicate hands smoothing his rough hair and a faint smile resting on her lips. Earlier that day, Joseph had collapsed on the bed in complete surrender, and he lay still for the day until dusk when he woke up and felt uneasy. Wrestling with the blankets, he was restless for a while until Mary appeared in the doorway. She looked at him intently, her hands holding his face, scanning for illness or injury. He gazed into her eyes briefly before resting in her hands and falling back to sleep. 

Hours passed. When he awoke again, Mary was seated by his head. He knew she hadn’t left his side all night. When he began to feel the interior restlessness again, Mary drew him closer and held him in her arms. He suddenly felt certain that this was to be the time of his death. He was on his way back to God. At this thought, a burst of silent joy entered his heart, and he resolved to preserve this mindset, in the arms of his beloved wife, and to not allow anything to steal his peace again. This was a moment he had been preparing for his whole life—a full life. 

His tired eyes closed, and he fell asleep. 

When he woke up again, he noticed that there was no sunlight in the room. It was still night. Beside his bed, a little towards the doorway, two figures stood, conversing quietly. One figure, clearly a man, carried himself meekly with his shoulders back. It was too dark for Joseph to see the face, but he knew who it was. He listened to his wife and son speak softly to each other, not registering what they were saying. The conversation lasted a while, and Joseph shut his eyes, but he stayed awake in silent adoration. 

At one point, Mary laughed very softly at something Jesus said, and Joseph, with a surge of affection for his wife, reached out his hand to show he was awake and invite them to come closer. A surprised Mary went directly to his bed, and resumed her place with him. She tried speaking to him, but he had trouble understanding and responding. It was so late, and he was so tired. Jesus knelt down just below Mary, but he didn’t try to speak. Mary reached for Joseph’s hand, twice the size of her own, and held it in a firm, loving grip.

For the last time, Mary held the hands that had worked, carved, and built every piece of furniture in their little home. She held the hands that had kept her safe, the hands that provided for her and her son, the hands that only ever served and loved. A few silent tears fell into her lap, but her hands did not tremble.

Mary, unbeknownst to Joseph and despite her tears, was smiling. She imagined the splendor and glory of Joseph’s arrival into Heaven, and she imagined being reunited with him in that eternal home. Jesus lay a loving hand on Joseph’s forehead, but He did not speak. Joseph, in complete surrender and joyful trust, gazed at his family one last time, and then rested in the love of his wife and son. 

Every last beat of his heart and breath of his lungs he offered for them. Until his last moment, he thought only of them. In his last moment, he was united with them. For all eternity, he rests with them. 

St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying, pray for us!

“When Joseph was dying, Mary sat at the head of his bed, holding him in her arms. Jesus stood just below her near Joseph’s breast. The whole room was brilliant with light and full of angels. After his death, his hands were crossed on his breast, he was wrapped from head to foot in a white winding sheet, laid in a narrow casket, and placed in a very beautiful tomb, the gift of a good man.”

-Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich