Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grieving the Loss of a Friend

Hearing news of traumatic death, sudden and unexpected, is like having a battering ram plunged into your solar plexus. It catches you off guard, brings your mind and your heart to places that seem somewhat perplexing, and sometimes can be a true test of faith. The psychological and spiritual complexity of the situation is staggering. And, the grief that results can be debilitating for some.

Yesterday, our parish community learned of the tragic and sudden loss of one of our fold. He was in a motorcycle accident; out for a ride with members of his club, a car unexpectedly struck him, taking his life. On what was a beautiful day, a great day for a ride out by the shore, -- I would imagine he'd made this ride many times -- he never would have expected to be called home to the Father. My thoughts went immediately to the repose of his soul and to his family. We offered a Hail Mary in that moment for all of them.

The news, of course, was quite a shock. I had just seen him the previous Sunday when I was trying to locate my daughter after Mass. I remember, we were in a hurry, having to attend separate Masses because of a sick child. Seeing my haste and my worry, he held the door for me and smiled that always pleasant smile -- you know, the kind that says I'm genuinely glad to see you. I smiled back, thanked him and asked him to say hello to his wife for me. Then, I was gone and so was he.

I recall thinking, "I really need to ask how the kids are doing and what his wife is up to now -- I'll catch up with him next time." Unfortunately, there is no next time. I can't feel guilty about that moment. God's plan was for me to do what my family needed. But, I am grateful for having seen that smile and been a recipient of his generosity that morning. It's a happy final memory to have of him.

I am just a friend from Church, and I was devastated by the news, as was my husband who was his brother in the Knights of Columbus. We had a connection, but not an extensive relationship. I spoke to several people after hearing the news who knew he and his family far better than I -- who worked with them or spent personal time with them. Their grief was palpable, and I could only agree with their words of disbelief and listen intently to what they needed to say -- sometimes offering my own insights to help us try to understand. This brought my heart to the Lord in asking for consolation for his family. If we were struggling, what must be happening to them?

His wife is one of the strongest, faithful, generous, and intelligent women I know. Those attributes, I should say virtues, provide a sound foundation for her to place this tragedy in the hands of the Lord. But, still, she must grieve, and so must the children -- two, who are solid adults in their 20's. News of the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one tests our faith and our resolve. The Lord never leaves us, however, and Scripture offers this to bolster both our faith and resolve in these times of sorrow:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saves those whose spirit is crushed. (Ps 34:19)
This is the hope that those who grieve, especially those who grieve a sudden loss, must cling to. He saves those who are brokenhearted. This isn't just a comment offered in passing, it's reality. It's what we believe. And, I know that his wife firmly believes this and trusts it to be true.

It is in this Easter Season that we rejoice in the reality of the bodily resurrection. Christ is Truly Risen, Alleluia! is our Easter Season exclamation. While a death, especially an unexpected death, is difficult to bear, this time of year in the Church reminds us of our ultimate goal, heaven. Jesus tells his disciples:
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
(Jn 16:22)

Jesus was speaking about being taken from the disciples. They were about to experience a great loss. And, even though they were given fair warning, they were still caught off guard. It came as a shock and a surprise to them. But, Jesus lets them know in this verse that they will be reunited with Him. That is what we must embrace in our sorrow. We will be reunited in heaven; there we will rejoice.

So, my prayer today is for my friend, her family and the repose of her husband's soul. I offer the Regina Coeli, the prayer of the Easter Season for this intention, and share it with you here -- please pray it for them if you can:

Regina Coeli

O, queen of heaven, rejoice!
For He whom thou didst merit to bear,
Hath arisen as He said,
Pray for us to God,
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary.
For Our Lord hath risen indeed.

Let us pray.
O God, who, through the Resurrection of
Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, didst
vouchsafe to fill the world with joy;
grant, we beseech Thee, that, through
His Virgin Mother, Mary, we may lay hold
on the joys of everlasting life.
Through the same Christ our Lord.

May He Rest In Peace!


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