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2 days ago, Pope John Paul II at 84, received his last sacramental rite. Upon seeing news flashes and getting SMSes, my heart sank. To the point that tears started to build up.
JPII had been battling a series of illness for numerous years, from Parkinson's disease to crippling knee and hip ailments. For the past 2 weeks it was a case of septic shock from high fever brought on by urinary track infection.

I can't say I am fully aware of all the works of JPII during his 26 years of papacy, but some significant events are dear to my heart; such as the start of World Youth Day (WYD) to bring together young people to share in the mission to be shepherds for Christ. Since 1986, every alternate year's WYD was held in a different country.

In 1995, I made such a trip to Manila, Philippines. It was the 1st WYD in South East Asia to one of the largest Catholic countries in the World. It was truly an experience so close me that I will not trade for anything in the world. I cried, I laughed, I shared and I was inspired. I remembered 2 extremely close encounters with JPII by the roadside as he zipped passed in his bulletproof Pope Mobil. I can never forget the spirit that shone from his presence that seemed to have transcended an over powering grace that our very begin cannot contain. It's an indescribable feeling. It's almost like God was just standing a meter from you. It was so over whelming that tears flowed continuously. I was overjoyed and perhaps it was a way the physical body reacted. It was a taste of what it would really be like if I was really standing before our Almighty God!

The crowd grew to 5 million on the morning of the WYD mass at Luneta Park. The roads were practically impassable and JPII flew above on a chopper and cried when he saw the scene. Below we cried out "John Paul II, We Love You". Back then, his health was already failing, but the Youth Mass proceeded with his homily. His hands shaking uncontrollably as he read off his notes. 10 years later his believe in young people continues.

2 years ago I had the privilege to visit JPII's home in Krakow, Poland. A serene place at a central street corner with a nice open court garden.

I don't think I'll ever forget this man. And while sharing with John, he said "What's not to like about him when all he's done is good". He's love for God's people was evident when 70,000 people gathered and stood vigil at St. Peter's Square praying for his health.

Dear Papa, my heart goes out to you at this time of difficulty and pain. May you be strong and close in the spirit of Christ in your hours of weakness.

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