Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It is three days before Christmas. I enter the doors of the church ready for the sadness, but not expecting the scene before me. The church is Catholic and large; in the shape of a cross with seating on all four sides surrounding the alter. All seats are full; not in the sort of way that people spread to claim space against strangers, but in the tight, shoulder to shoulder way that people sit to make room for family. There is no room to sit and people begin to line the walls, first single and then two and three deep. There is no sound. Not a cough or a whisper. There is no sound that would be appropriate. A fifteen-year-old in our community took his own life just days before.
I sit bookend with my husband; my middle son between us. He knew Jake. He knew him some time ago through a mutual acquaintance and knew him casually now in high school; they rode on the same bus. “He was always smiling.” My son told me. I had learned of Jake’s death the day after it happened on December 16th and joined a town in profound sadness and loss.
A sophomore in high school.
A lacrosse player, a wrestler, a football player, a good student.
He did his homework that day.
He said “Good-bye” and “I love you” to his mom as she parted to pick up his twin sister.
Mom and sister were the ones who found him… still alive and struggling. As a mom, I cannot shake the image. As a sister, I cannot bear the pain.
The service is beautiful and the church is filled with teenagers; some who knew him and others who just knew his presence. A family friend gave the eulogy and spoke of a boy who would commonly be seen helping a neighbor repair a mailbox. He was a teenager who just a week prior worked with a high school outreach group at a local soup kitchen. He was a boy who reached out to younger kids as a role model. He was an athlete that gave his all for his teammates. He was a boy with an untold auditory processing problem that worked hard to keep it to himself. He was a boy who was picked on….but never told anyone, taking it all with a smile. He was a boy with darkness…that didn’t see the dawn.
I sit in that church in pain that is familiar; pain known well to my family. I sit at the threshold of a holiday filled with joy, feeling none in my heart. I think about the kids in that room who were unkind. Gone is my anger toward them. I pray for their hearts and for their own grieving. I sit in proximity to a mother, who knows the ultimate agony and try not to see her. I finally look and she is gracious. She leans on her husband and accepts the kind words of by-passers until the service is over. Her pain is ours as she wails the name of her child while they wheel the casket down the isle. She follows her child to put him to rest in the frozen ground.
I know now that the hardest part is to come.
The hardest part is when life resumes normal for the rest of the world.
I think about the Christmas tree in their home and the presents beneath it for Jake.
I wonder how these women, mother and sister, erase or blur the videos that run through their minds.
I pass by their house this evening and see a candle light in every window. I see a wreath on the front door and do not see the darkness I expected.
I pray for Jake; that he rests in God’s arms with LOVE in a place void of sadness and hurt.
I pry for Patty, his mom, for Jessica, his sister, and for Dave his father that they find the peace that passes all understanding and find light in his memory.
I pray for his teammates, those who may have not been kind, that they learn the power of reaching out.
I pray for a community that is mourning… that they find healing together.
Pray with me.