Sunday, July 29, 2012

Death, peace, and my sister

Barbara Janet Cooper Schonert
I just returned from Texas after rushing down one week ago when my sister Barbara called me from the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. As she lie there in bed waiting for answers, she told me that she was at the hospital due to a sudden onset of very serious health issues.

Barbara had previously beat lung cancer and had been in remission. We had been counting our blessings because Barbara was doing so well. Then, suddenly, last week Barbara faced this new set of devastating complications. After a few days and much testing, Barbara was told that she now had acute Leukemia.

I quickly tied up lose ends at home and jumped on a plane to go to Texas to be with my sister. Before leaving I begged many prayers from so many prayer warriors I know, including Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal Burke, Fr. Benedict Groechel, folks at EWTN, the Sisters at EWTN, and many others too, including the Missionaries of Charity Sisters (Mother Teresa's Order).

A Missionary of Charity Sister told me over the phone that she and the other Sisters would be praying for Barbara and us all. We both prayed that the blessed relic of Mother Teresa that Sister said she would send me to bring to my sister would arrive on time. It did.

She also blessed me (over the phone and in a letter) with beautiful poignant words from Mother Teresa to take to my heart and which can speak to all of our hearts.

This photo was taken very soon after I arrived last Sunday evening
This is what the MC Sister shared with me: "Death is nothing except going back to God, where He is and where we belong...Death is the most decisive moment in human life. It is like our Coronation: to die in peace with God."~Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

My sister was so happy to receive the relic of Mother Teresa and told her visitors about it. I also gave her a blessed Miraculous medal that I had touched to the medal Blessed Mother Teresa gave me that I always wear. I had previously placed the medal I gave Barbara on Blessed Pope John Paul II's tomb and on Mother Teresa's bed (where she stayed at the convent when visiting her Sisters in Rome). Barbara had me put the blessed Miraculous medal on the chain around her neck. 

Barbara was a dear sister and also my best friend. She was a mother, a daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and caregiver to many. Speaking of being a caregiver, as I sat by her bedside attempting to take care of her, Barbara reminded me (more than once!) to make sure I had something to eat. 

She loved life and her family. She enjoyed inspiring others with her writings. Barbara was a fighter. Her life was not an easy one--she endured much hardship, yet she moved forward in faith.

A beautiful soul!
All throughout her fight with lung cancer she possessed an incredible positive and prayerful outlook. She showed up for her chemo and radiation appointments with a contagious smile and uplifting words. She amazed her doctors. Then, faced with her new devastating illness, she continued on each day with a hopeful heart, questioning doctors, but resigned to God's holy will. 

Barbara and her daughters

Last week was filled with many blessings amid the tears and struggles. I'm very happy I was able to spend some time with Barbara and chat with her in between her naps.

Barbara passed on to her Eternal reward on Friday surrounded by loved ones.

Barbara was and is an inspiration.

I know in my heart that my sister, my best friend, Barbara is at peace. As sorrowful and painful as it was to witness my dear loved one suffer intensely and then leave us all much too quickly, my heart is at peace and I pray for those whose hearts are not at peace. Of course, I am extremely saddened by her passing, but I am thankful for God's peace. Times like this are never easy, but God is always near, granting us graces for the asking.

I love you, Barbara. I always will!

Barbara loved the following quote and posted it on her blog ( some time ago and also on the back cover of one of her books:
                                                                      Be at Peace
"Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; Rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; And when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."~Saint Francis De Sales

I think God must be carrying me in His arms right now. He was carrying me all last week even as I couldn't "stand it."

A Cooper Reunion many years ago--all 8 "kids" are here. It was on the Fourth of July
(hence the American flag shirts). Barbara is in front on left. My brother Gary
on the far right has also gone to his Eternal reward.

Please live each day as it was your last and prepare your hearts and souls for Eternal life. I welcome prayers for Barbara's soul and for her whole family and her friends. 

Thank you, everyone for your prayers. May God bless you all in great abundance.



  2. Donna-Marie, Thank you for your very moving witness to the hope that we have at the hour of our deaths, and for your beautiful and trusting faith in this moment of deep suffering. My prayers are with you and your family.

  3. Donna-Marie, I am sorry for your loss, but rejoice that even now you are able to take comfort and even feel peace that your sister is in her Eternal home. It sounds like she went through quite a bit of suffering. I’m sure it was hard for you and Barbara’s loved ones to see her hurting, but praise God you have the gift of faith and know that she is present with the Lord, looking down from Heaven loving and being loved by you still. May God continue to bless you and your family with peace as you go through the grieving process with a hope that comes from knowing death is not the end.

  4. You an tell a lot about someone by the way they leave this life. Thanks to you, it sounds like Barbara's death was truly a coronation. Keeping you in prayer, Donna-Marie!

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your sister's life.

  6. Thank you all for your very kind words and generous prayers. God bless you!

  7. Donna,
    My condolences and prayers for the repose of Barbara's soul, your family, and you. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, and for your beautiful testimony to our Catholic faith.

  8. Your sister was so very beautiful. I'm sure God is carrying you, her family and friends now. She's in my prayers. Peace.

  9. Oh, Donna, I am very sorry for your loss! What a beautiful way to remember a sister. May your Barbara rest in peace.

  10. Donna, I am so sorry for the loss of your sister! Your post and your tribute to her are beautiful -- I will pray for the repose of her soul, but I have a feeling she is already gazing upon the Lord.

  11. Thank you so very much, everyone. Your prayers are very much appreciated. May God bless you all!


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