Jacqueline Piano Ruble was born in Taleb, Bantay, Ilocos Sur in the Philippines on January 25, 1965. After living in Hawaii for some time, she eventually settled in the San Jose area with her only son, Joseph. She was an active member of our parish, a proud Third Order member, and a faithful promoter of the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary which she lived out energetically through the Consecration Group. In God’s infinite mercy, after battling cancer for several years, her soul encountered her Lord in the early hours of the morning of Good Friday, April 2, 2021, 2:38am to be exact. We would like to recount a few of the graces we have been able to witness through her suffering and death, confident that she now shares in Our Lord’s Resurrection.
Her son, Joseph, would describe his mother as “tenacious, fearless, selfless and loving”. Her faith and trust in God’s loving Providence guided her through many difficult and painful trials. Since many of us have known Jackie, she has always been sick; but we’ve always seen her so joyful. Others who knew her can testify to this as well. Joseph shared that she never showed “pain or intolerance—always smiling,” even though she was on “all sorts of medical equipment even in her last moments.”
Even throughout the pandemic, Jackie would try to make it to Holy Mass as much as possible and despite all obstacles. She knew she needed Jesus in order to keep going one more day. A few months ago, we started seeing her with a portable breathing machine to help keep her oxygen levels up from the effects of the cancer treatments she was undertaking. On January 9, 2021, when we were able to admit new Third Order members to our Religious Family, Jackie was in attendance but from a distance. Her strength was diminishing, and she had a harder time walking. She received Our Lord with great devotion and love, joyfully witnessing the growing family and grateful for the grace to be present at this celebration. She radiated a deep joy.
About a month later, we heard the news that Jackie’s vision was being compromised and she was experiencing great dizziness. She was rushed to the hospital and we soon found out her cancer had metastasized, and a tumor had been detected in her brain. One of Jackie’s close friends stopped by the convent a day or two after we had received the news. Unannounced and unsure of why she came, she spoke to us about how Jackie was having a difficult time accepting this new trial and impending death. Jackie loved life and truly fought in order to live life to the fullest. However, the doctors had told her they would not be able to help her and that she should just go home and begin hospice care. We spoke to Jackie’s friend about Father Daniel Vitz, IVE, who had likewise passed away a couple of years ago due to brain cancer. Both Jackie and Fr Dan were very high-spirited and dynamic by nature; but God wanted to strip them of everything in order to conform them more perfectly to Himself, entirely stripped and humbled on the wood of the cross. We asked her friend to take a remembrance card which had a piece of cloth with Fr Dan’s blood on it and encourage Jackie to ask Fr. Dan for the grace to resign herself, to offer everything to God. As our Constitutions state, the “sick” are considered “the keystones of the apostolic endeavor of our Institute” (194).
On Easter Monday, we celebrated her funeral Mass (interestingly, Fr. Daniel Vitz’s funeral Mass was also during Easter week two years ago). In the homily, Father Jonathan Dumlao, IVE, who had visited and bestowed the last rites to her on Holy Thursday, reflected:
On Holy Thursday, I received word from . . . members of the Consecration Group . . . that Jackie only had a few days to live. I spoke with Jackie’s sister to get accurate information regarding her actual condition and asked if Jackie would be strong enough to wait for me to come visit her the morning of Good Friday. Her sister explained that there were varying opinions about how long she had to live: 2-4 days; and even a few hours. I immediately decided at that moment to go visit her. Undoubtedly, it was the Holy Spirit who compelled me to go.
I arrived at Jackie’s sister house and later realized that it was the Hour of Mercy—a little past 3:30pm to be exact. After all was said and done, I finished the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at around 3:56pm, just before the end of the Hour of Mercy. The scene was fitting within the context of the Triduum and an apt depiction of Calvary, except in this case, instead of a Michaelangelo’s Pietà-type scene in which Our Lady is holding in her arms the dead body of Her Only Crucified Son, what I saw was a reverse scene—an only son at the bedside of his dying mother (Jackie), holding her hand . . .
Jackie also had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart. She died at 2:38am, Good Friday, which was also, providentially, a First Friday, which is dedicated to the 9 First Fridays’ devotion, promoted by the great lover of the Sacred Heart: St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. In the last promise, Jesus said [to Saint Faustina]: “I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant all to those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.” This Good Friday was also the death anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II who died on April 2nd, 2005; which was also a First Saturday and the Saturday in the Octave of Easter, the Vigil before the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy seems to be resounding theme surrounding Jackie’s happy death…
Divine Mercy took Jackie when and how He did, a week shy of Divine Mercy Sunday, perhaps to remind us that, as Fulton Sheen says, “one of greatest tragedies in the world is wasted pain.” Jackie suffered much, but she did not waste her pain; she suffered joyfully. She did not waste the time that was given to her. And what about us? Will we be given as much time as Jackie was given to prepare for death? Will we live to see another Holy Week, another Triduum, another Easter Sunday? Life is short, death is certain, but the time and manner of its coming are uncertain.
What Fulton Sheen says is well put: “God does not do anything . . . without the greatest finesse of detail.” God is in the details. The priests and sisters here at Our Lady of Peace have noticed a general pattern and phenomena that occurs every Holy Week especially during the Triduum: more people die holy deaths during these holy days. As Fr. Jonathan said in his recent Divine Mercy Sunday homily in which he mentioned Jackie’s holy death: “I think the reason why is because during these days, more Catholics are typically the best versions of themselves and have the right dispositions for a holy death and so therefore, God ‘snatches’ these souls while they are ripe and ready for Heaven, lest they start sinning again and placing their eternal salvation in jeopardy.”
We are mourning the loss of the physical presence of such a faithful and joyful woman, but we place our hope in the truth that for those who die in Christ, death is the birthday into eternal life.
Would that all of us would use our time here on earth wisely in preparing to die a holy and provided for death as beautiful as Jackie’s, a death which, St. Maria Maravillas de Jesus says, “is no more than falling blindly into the arms of God.”
“Pray as much as you can for the dying . . . Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer.” (Jesus to Saint Faustina, Diary, 1777).
In Jesus through Mary,
Religious Family of the Incarnate Word at Our Lady of Peace Church & Shrine
Santa Clara, California