Nothing prepared me for the request my daughter made.
It came, as these things often do these days, in a text.
It was the schedule of calling hours and the celebration of life.
It took me a moment to realize she was asking me to take her to a funeral.
Our small community has been hit, as have many around us, with way too many teen suicides. This particular funeral was marking the second of this school year. (That doesn’t include other neighboring school districts.)
The young person who committed suicide was close to friends of my daughter, part of her circle of influence but not extremely close.
I don’t know that there’s any comfort in that. To be honest, I’ve been struggling to find comfort in any of this since the suicide of a fifth-grader in my other daughter’s class last spring.
There is no easy way to see children killing themselves. I don’t have any answers. I have only prayers. Lots and lots of prayers.
And I do also have hope.
Every Sunday evening, I do what many adults find unthinkable and surround myself with a group of Confirmation teens. While some find this a terrifying idea, I find it inspiring and charged with more energy and hope than I find anywhere except in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
In those faces, and in the questions they’ll ask if we listen, I find the gift of the next generation. They remind me that I don’t know it all, but that the answers are findable.
The answers, however, are not always in words.
As we drove to the funeral of an 18-year-old that night in February, I asked my daughter if she wanted to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
I didn’t ask because I’m holy. I asked because I didn’t know what else to say. I knew it was going to be hard. And I knew that she needed to be there.
And, above all, I knew she needed the reminder of mercy. She needed the foundation of her faith to hold the rocking sobs that would later shake her.
When you are facing grief that’s bigger than you are, it’s easy to be overcome. It’s easy to want to give up. It’s easy to fall and stay down.
There is an ancient saying: Stat crux, dum volvitur orbis that translates, “When all else in the world is shaken and passes, the Cross stands firm.” In his book Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement, Fr. Timothy Gallagher references this and writes, “The Cross of Christ is the solid ground on which we can stand in time of suffering.”
Fr. Gallagher continues with the advice, “Place a crucifix where you can see it. Frequently, and especially in times of suffering, fix your gaze of faith on the Crucifix. There you will see every kind of bodily pain — head, face, back, feet, hands — and every kind of emotional pain — isolation, abandonment, betrayal, unjust condemnation, ingratitude. Where you are, he has been. He understands. He shares your pain with you.”
He shares your pain with you. And that, truly, is what we seek. When we gathered to celebrate the young life, gone too soon and in such a tragic way, we were together. And when the friends found themselves in a basement, watching a game together, grieving and sharing presence, I reflected on the quote the pastor shared in his opening reflection about presence.
In a time of plenty, when few of us will ever be truly hungry, so many are starving for attention. Think of how often the works of mercy demand your time: visiting, instructing, counseling, admonishing, bearing, forgiving, comforting, praying.
How often in a day — the few hours a day I’m around them — do I hear, “Hey, Mom, look!”? And how often do I actually stop to look, to be with them?
The busy isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Jesus.
Copyright 2020 Sarah Reinhard