A week ago today we found out that a young man we all knew had drowned. His family goes to our church, and his younger sister and brother are friends with Alex and Faith. They are fellow homeschoolers, and 4-Hers. I think the last time I saw him was a year or so ago when he was helping lead the Stations of the Cross at our church with the Youth Group. He and Kendall used to hang out together some. He was planning to go to Chapel Hill in the Fall. And, as much as I cannot begin to understand the endless desperation and grief of his family, I do know what it is to lose someone that you love.
The funeral Mass was held Thursday evening, and it was packed. I realized, for the first time, how comforting traditions are, and how much I need them. The Mass is always the Mass. Whether it’s the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, a Wedding, a Funeral, or a Solemnity, the tenets of the Mass are always the same, all over the world. We know what to expect, and only the readings, responsorial psalms and songs change, to fit the occasion. The homily will be appropriate, and we will receive Holy Communion to give us all strength and courage. I think, especially at a time of death, when things are so surreal and unexpected, the soothing traditions of the Church are more meaningful than ever. I have come to view Mass as God’s security blanket that we can wrap around ourselves.
Afterward we went out to dinner with several friends and our priest. It was a good time of healing and relaxation. And it was in reflecting on the funeral and dinner after that it occurred to me, again, that death is not at all about the deceased. It is all about those of us left behind. We hug each other and reassure each other that everything is going to be okay, that the rest of us are still here, and that life will go on. It is one of the rare times that even stoic men will hug one another and publicly display their support and affection.
So, while I hate funerals and receiving lines, I have come to understand why we do those things. When I was younger it all seemed so pointless to me, and so incredibly macabre. But the older I get, the more I start to see past my own selfishness and understand the needs of others.
I hate that this sweet young man is gone. I grieve for his family, who is still reeling from shock and disbelief and unspeakable loss. I grieve for those who stood on the shoreline but didn’t understand that he was ‘not waving but drowning’ until it was too late. God rest his soul!