The phone rang. 1am. Groan! Could I come to the hospital? Sergio (not his name) was dying. I'll be there in 15 minutes.
It was not an unpleasant walk to the hospital - a warm night, the street busy with students going to or coming back from the pub, heading to their respective colleges. I made my way through the night entry door with my swipe card - silent corridors, a lift which immediately responded to the press of the button, another silent corridor on the 8th floor. I walked quickly to room 18 and knocked, pushing the door open.
Suddenly a hand on my chest - Sergio's wife, pushing me back out. 'Oh, Father, thank you for coming. You can't go in.' 'Oh?' 'Yes, you can't go in, Sergio will think he's dying'. 'Really? So I can't go in? But you did call me, didn't you?' 'Yes, I did, I panicked.' 'Ok, so what do you want me to do? Let me go in and give him the Sacraments.' 'Oooh, no! Please, Father!' 'Ok, so what do you want me to do?' 'I'm sorry, Father, please just go home.'
[I know, you think I'm making this up, don't you? Well, I'm not!]
It was an equally pleasant walk back to the presbytery and I imagined my bed was still warm in parts. Soon I was back in slumber land.
Ring! Ring! Oh no. Hello. The nurse put Maria on. 'Yes, Maria, I'll come at once. Sorry to hear that Sergio is dead.' The clock showed 5am.
Now the street was different - colder, some traffic, no pedestrians except for me.
This time I was met at the door. Maria was in tears. About 15 family members stood around the bed. I gave Absolution and the Plenary Indulgence and anointed Sergio's strangely cold forehead.
On the way out, curious, I asked the nurse to check the chart for time of death. 3am!