Three weeks, three funerals, three of our school families are changed forever.
A student, a sibling and a mother are no longer with us Earthside. I have learned more about death, dying, tragedy, grief, community and compassion than I thought possible. But this isn’t just fodder for the blog.
This is real. These were real lives. Real people who were loved, cherished and honored. People whose presence will always be missed.
Growing up, funerals weren’t really something our family did. I viewed death as a very distant event. It’s not a reach to say that I feared it. Shied away from it. Avoided the inevitable. What if I said, or did, the wrong thing?
Thirteen years ago this summer, a nine-year-old boy at our parish died of cancer. His funeral was the most joyous, faith-filled thing I had ever attended in my life. His sister drew the art for the program, the music was unbelievable, there was more laughter than tears and the celebration that was his funeral had a life-altering effect on my outlook of death. Was there sorrow? Of course. But the joy outweighed it.
Now that I’m a mom of six and we’ve watched parents, extended family, grandparents, cousins and dear friends die in this life, my perspective has shifted, once again. So when the phone call came in nearly two weeks ago, I lost my breath and the world came to a screeching halt.
Our dear friends lost their 16-month-old in a tragic accident. He and Gianna were born just three days apart, to the same OB, at the same hospital, to the same nurses. The same priest and Dominican Sisters visited just hours after their births. Our children already had them marrying in France in an elaborate wedding in 20 years. Our children go to school together and our lives are intertwined in many ways. To be perfectly honest, I am still struggling with the reality that he is gone.
The sting of that loss is far greater than I ever imagined. Yet, it is but a sliver of the sorrow our friends, their five other children and their families are carrying. Our school community lost a fourth grade student and a fifth grader’s mom, both to cancer. The grief those families are shouldering is great, but they do not carry it alone. If I were to share with you the outpouring of God’s mercy these past few weeks, you would not believe me. There have been many tender and intimate moments as we attended the visitations, vigils and funeral Masses. Most of which I will keep private.
However, there are some things that need to be shared. And, I pray you read them knowing the broken heart that writes them.
Loss is loss. No matter the circumstances, when someone we love leaves us, the pain is incredibly real.
As our dear friends reminded us, “In order to feel grace this big, you must experience pain and suffering just as big. But the grace? It always outweighs the pain.” Earlier this week I found myself unable to share my grief with other people. It was just too raw. Too real. Too close to home. There was an emergency rosary that day and while I had thought about attending, I just couldn’t bring myself to go. That is, until Scott said, “Go.” And I was reminded that in times of joy, and in sadness, people need people. We cannot hold on to our grief nor can we hole up our compassion. They must be shared.
The hardest moments for me have been during Mass, just after communion, when I find myself in a (nearly) quiet pew with nothing between God and I. That’s when I feel the intimacy. That’s when the sorrow seeps in. That’s when I feel the tears coming. That’s when I remember the ultimate sacrifice He made for us. He knows our sorrow and our pain. Yet, as a I gaze upon the crucifix, I know how the story ends. I know who triumphs over death.
So, while we mourn the loss of three very precious lives, may the deep holes they left in their passing be filled with buckets and buckets of God’s mercy.
His love? It never fails.