- At two thirty a.m., today, a policeman banged on my door with his nightstick.
That heavy-handed banging has a way of getting one's attention.
I went to the door. An earnest-looking young policeman addressed me as "Mr.
James." He said an old friend of mine was going to have surgery in about
half an hour, and: "He'd like you to come and read him his rights."
Last rites. That's what he meant. Remember them? The best he could come
up with was something he knew something about. Learning has to do with
In school hallways, students come and go who never heard of Michelangelo.
So, I went to the hospital. Dressed like a priest, wearing my best fur hat,
the orderlies made way. There was my friend, an Orthodox Christian, with
various tubes in various places, on a gurney, in the hall, waiting to go
"Wie gehts es' ihnen, Herr Stammer," I said, "was tus du hier?" (How are
you, Mr. Stammer, what are you doing here?)
I asked him if he wanted to make his Confession. He did. I told the doctor
that, unless we could swear him to secrecy, which we could not, I would have
to ask him to be excused. He went away.
At no time did I tell my friend: "You have the right to remain silent. You
have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be
appointed for you. Anything you say can and will be taken down and used in
evidence against you."
I also didn't call what I did "Last Rites."
The whole experience, beginning with the pounding on my door in the middle of
the night, together with the sleeplessness which followed, just all seemed
so other-worldly, rather like something out of an Italian movie.
Father Andrew (Laurence J. James, Ph.D.) in Ohio