A friend of mine had a parent who committed suicide years ago and today was the anniversary of that death. I know about the loss of a parent and I miss my Dad terribly - however, his death was from natural causes.
Do things happen for a reason? I was thinking of my father earlier today and how he simply loved mankind. It was more than him simply being a typical gregarious and jovial Irishman. Dad held no prejudices and counted his friends among all races, creeds, and ethnicities. I used to think, and still do, that my father's attitude stemmed from the role he played in World War II. He was, as he described himself to me, a killing machine without feeling and subsequently he had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after the war. Dad suffered through several nervous breakdowns, the last of which caused his first wife to disappear with his young son. I have a half-brother - perhaps alive, perhaps a name on the Vietnam Memorial - whom I never met. After living through all that, my father simply became one of the most compassionate people I have ever known. Maybe he was trying to make up for what he felt were his past sins, as he became deeply religious as he grew older, or maybe he took to heart that he needed to live like Christ. I had the opportunity to speak to my father just before he died and I asked him if he was afraid. His answer came firmly and quickly - oh no, because I know Jesus is here with me.
When I was later reminded today about my friend's loss, I recalled my thoughts earlier in the day and so decided to have a conversation with my father. I asked him to seek out the other parent in the afterlife, and show that person some of the kindness and compassion my father showed to others in this life. I could imagine my father saying, c'mere, sit over here and take a load off, and making that person feel that there is no judgment for how they decided to end their life, only a hand extended in kindness. And why not? If our souls are immortal, why would we lose our humanity in death? The cleansing of Purgatory is for our sins, not for those aspects of ourselves that demonstrate the divine spark of creation.
As usual, I told my Dad I loved him, I missed him, and how I make sure his grandchildren know his story, even though they never had the chance to meet him. I thanked him for being my family's champion among the Church Triumphant and added, just see what you can do, Dad.
Today passed. I took today off and went to pick up my kids from school. Kate was in a Girl Scouts meeting, so I left with Patrick, my 7-year-old, deciding to return later for the girl. Patrick was excited to show me that he had been given a little booklet on the Easter story and told me what an important story it is. Patrick sometimes startles me with his faith and he goes through phases where he tells me seriously he will become a priest some day, and I encourage that vocation.
As it happened, we met the same friend mentioned at the beginning of this post. Patrick was eager to share with this person his Easter story and proudly flipped the pages, giving his own commentary on what happened. However, Patrick suddenly said to my friend, "Judas betrayed Christ. And then he committed suicide. That means he killed himself. Why would Judas do something like that?" I cringed, thinking, oh Lord, that's not something to mention today . . . But the moment passed without comment from my friend.
Afterwards, I looked at Patrick's booklet and realized that there was no mention of Judas at all in it. Why had Patrick added that comment? I mentioned this to my husband and he suggested it was because my friend might have been thinking that same thing at that moment and God wanted my friend to know that He knew. I would like to think that perhaps Patrick's grandfather provided a little whisper heard only to Patrick and helped to faciliate passing along the message.
Is it only coincidence? I don't know. Nonetheless, keep in your prayers the soul of my friend's parent, as well as my younger cousin who took her life, and the souls of all those who lose hope and choose that horrible route. Pray too for the other victims, the families and friends who are left behind to ask why would he do something like that? and deal with the grief. And believe in the Communion of Saints and know those who have passed from this life have done so only physically. Maybe my son is an example of Christ's teaching to be like a child and be brave about asking God straightforward questions with the absolute conviction that an answer will be heard.