It was last Wednesday when I really thought to myself, "Geez, I should really be blogging." Two events that day had brought me to tears and both had to do with life on this Earth as being temporary.
First, was the realization that a dear friend of mine had passed away. Now, when I say "dear," mind you, I didn't even know this man's name. He and his wife would come to St. Susanna daily Mass with me and had been for a few years. They were a beautiful couple because the love between them was so evident. He had a hard time getting around and would lean on her, almost totally, for support getting up the aisle for Communion. Still, the sacrifice and mutual respect they gave each other was such a profound witness for my life. One of those feelings where you want to be married because you want it to be like THAT. These two people had a great faith--attending daily Mass and receiving the Sacraments often. It was obvious to me that they knew they could not love each other alone. They were dependent upon him. For the past year and a half, I had not seen "my favorite couple" at Mass, and I tried not to think about why. Maybe it was too cold and the weather was bad, making it impossible for them to attend Mass. But as the seasons changed, I knew that wasn't the case.
Just last Wednesday, I saw the wife in Church--alone. "Maybe he's just sick.." I said to myself. Until I saw others at the Mass consoling her at the Sign of Peace. Bummer. He's gone. And I started to cry--quite unexpectedly because I usually don't feel things like this. I cried because I would never see the beautiful married witness again. I cried for the pain she must be feeling of losing a lifelong companion. I just cried.
My second experience of death this past Wednesday was quite different. It involved a teenager. One I had taught as a 7th grader my first year of teaching. Now, as a sixteen-year-old. I found out he was in the hospital after an alleged suicide attempt and was on life support and not expected to live. (In fact, he died Friday.) This boy had some troubles. He was a challenging student in that he wasn't very interested in learning and was hard to motivate academically. He had severe mood swings and at times, preferred to just be by himself. Despite his family's attempts to make him a happy boy at peace with life, it seemed that he had a hard time finding his place--and was violent towards the world and those who loved him most.
If you read the paper and see the news reports about this boy's dramatic death, you would think he is no more than a criminal. A troubled teen who was in and out of juvenile detention centers, reeking havoc on his community. But I saw something MUCH different in that 7th grade boy that was in my class. This was the kid who when his class was planning a surprise birthday party for me (their teacher) suggested they act like he got sent to the principal's office for something, so that I would have to leave the room and take care of it. I remember that day, the principal (fake) yelling at him while he's smirking and I'm thinking, "What?? Why are you smirking? This is serious!" When all along, he was in on the surprise.
I can remember (and I still have) the yellow piece of scrap paper I found on my desk one day with the exact time AND location for a soccer game he was playing this evening...just in case I decided to show up. Oh, and don't forget his parents' cell phone numbers too. In case I got lost.
What was going on inside his head those last few hours of his life I may never know. What I do know is that this kid had a heart that longed for the same things I do--he wanted to know he was loved, he wanted justice (boy, did he ever) and for some reason, despite everyone's efforts to give him that (because he was NOT a neglected child) it never satisfied him and his life ended in desperation.
When I found out he was in the hospital, I asked all my friends to start praying for this sixteen year old. Asking God for his mercy and love to just cover him up in his last hours of life. The only comfort I am given is knowing that God is all-knowing and all-loving and if I've seen events that make this kid a kid--not a convict--then I know God sees it too. After all, Jesus came for the sinners. Not the righteous.
So, for me, these two events of deaths: the elderly man from St. Susanna's Mass and my sixteen-year-old student, although very different in circumstance, are no different at the core of the event. Death points to something more. Why? Because I can't live my life with meaning if it all just ends in death anyway. No matter what I do, who I love, the accomplishments I make. If it ends in death, who cares?
For me, life is positivity...it's hope. Why? Because Christ came for the man at St. Susanna's and my student who committed suicide...and has the ability to actually save them from death. My hope and prayer is that both are seeing the eternal light, happiness and peace of God's grace in heaven.