It is with a profoundly heavy heart that I must tell you of the death of Jude's friend, Gus. At 2 am on Sunday, Gus lost his battle with cancer. I thank you all for your many prayers for him and his family over the last several months.
When I found out on Sunday morning, I went in to tell Jude and his friend AJ, who had been spending the night. They were both shocked and moved. We talked a little bit about what happened to Gus, and then they asked if they could watch SpongeBob.
A few minutes later, I realized that they weren't in the living room any more. They had gone to Jude's room, and both crawled inside the fort made of sheets which they'd constructed the night before. And they were praying. Sitting together in their tiny fort, praying for their lost friend. And this made me deeply grateful for Catholic school, because if there's one thing that organized religion helps with the most, it's with dealing with grief and finding comfort. They knew to come together and pray.
I then decided that we needed to all go to church, to the early mass at the church affiliated with their school (not the church where I sing in the choir). When we got there, I realized that an amazing thing had happened. Everyone seemed to have had the same idea. The church was packed with friends of Gus' family. Much grief. Many tears. A very moving gathering of the community.
When it came time for communion, a murmur went through the congregation, and we realized that there, coming forward for communion, were Gus' parents. How they managed to get there, I can't imagine. The strength...too much for me to comprehend.
I've had a rough couple of days. Am I grieving the loss of this boy? Yes. He was a really particularly special and life-filled child. Am I grieving for his parents, both of whom I consider friends? Yes. They are both deeply good people. People I value and respect very much.
But I think that a large part of my grief is simply being forced to accept that these things...happen. We don't like to think that they do happen. They happen in movies. They happen on the news. They happen to others. But the truth is...they happen. That pain, that loss is real.
I remember the few months after each of my parent's deaths. I would wake up in the morning, and for just a brief, blissful, peaceful moment, I would think everything was normal. Everything was happy. But then, with a deep, stabbing pain in my gut, I would remember. Nothing would ever be the same again. It was real. This was not someone else's pain, not an idea of pain, but MY pain. MY pain, and no one else's. I was the only one feeling this, and the only one who could feel it...I couldn't shake this pain. It was MINE. I had to feel it and work my way through it and come to a healing. I had a new normal I had to get used to.
Sunday night, I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned. I couldn't stop thinking about Gus and his parents. How they must feel, how I would feel. I kept thinking that maybe if I took some of their grief, took it into my body, and felt it for them, like an empath...then maybe it would spare them some of their sadness. Because I could take on their pain and...let it go. Because it wasn't MY pain. I could let it go because it wasn't mine. But it was theirs, and nothing I could do would possibly lessen it for them.
And suddenly, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. And I thanked God that this wasn't MY pain this time. And I got out of bed and went in and kissed the head of my sweet, sweaty, sleeping boy who was ALIVE and HEALTHY.
Please, if you are a prayerful type, take a moment right now to pray for the soul of sweet Gus. And pray for the strength and healing of his beautiful family. And then go in and kiss the heads of your children who are alive, and thank God that this pain today is not YOUR pain.