Monday, May 20, 2013

What a weekend...

And although there was a lot of good that happened this weekend, I don't mean that title in the good sense. I'll write separate posts about my hafla and Anne's birthday and my sister's visit, but everything was overshadowed this weekend by a tragic event.

Sunday morning I found out that my mom's first cousin, whom I've known and loved throughout my life, had died. That's always tragic, obviously, and he was only in his 60's. But to make the news even more difficult to bear is the fact that he took his own life.

Suicide. That single word brings forth pain in a way that is just unspeakable.

When somebody dies, in our human nature we want answers. How did they die? *Why* did they die? And with suicide, it's really impossible to get inside somebody's head to understand what would drive them to feel that this is their only option. I don't know right now if he left a note or not, but even then, those left behind never have the answers that they feel they need.

We're all still very much grappling with this news and the wake and funeral hang on the horizon like depressing black clouds. It feels surreal, like he isn't really gone, and nobody can picture the man that we knew doing this.

But let me tell you a little bit about him, because it's a beautiful story, albeit tragic. His name is Michael. He comes from a devout Catholic family. His mom, Marie, and father, John (both now deceased) were devoted to each other, to their children, and to their Catholic faith. When the rest of their extended family left the Church for nondenominational Christianity, Aunt Marie would love to come talk to us about her love of the Blessed Mother and the rosary since we were one of the few remaining Catholics in the family on that side.

She told me a story once that I never forgot. When Michael was a little boy, she was very much wanting to conceive another child. She had some sort of health complication, and her doctor told her that he didn't think she would conceive again. Thus, she developed a prayer plan. Every day in 9 day segments, she would take little Michael and they would go to church to pray a novena in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother, asking the Lord to bless their family with another child.

After a time, she did conceive, and bore a healthy daughter that she named Francesca. Francesca was just a light in the family. She had this loud, infectious laugh that you could hear no matter where she was in the house. Michael did too, in fact. You could always identify their location based upon hearing them laugh, which was frequently. :)

Aunt Marie died when I was a teenager, and her husband John was just lost without her. He went to live with Francesca and her family. Not very long after, Francesca, who was in the mid-30's at the time, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lived for a few more years with treatment, but died at age 38.

Her death was a devastating blow to the family. She had a husband and young children left behind, and now her dad was reeling even more. Francesca and Michael had both chosen to be members of an Assembly of God church as adults, but Uncle John never lost his Catholic faith. It was a source of comfort to him during this painful time.

This was one of my first experiences with Hospice care, and with seeing somebody die well before their time when we all knew it was coming. It was horrible. It always bothered me that Aunt Marie had prayed so hard for Francesca to be born and yet she died far too young.

Some years later, Uncle John passed away. And then there was just Michael.

He had a family. A wife, 2 grown daughters, and grandchildren. A successful career. Apparently his wife had started to suffer from dementia, although none of us knew this until this weekend. If this factored into the situation, I do not know. But my mom has spoken to him a lot recently and nothing ever seemed amiss. On Wednesday, I posted a photo of Anne on Facebook, and he commented on how beautiful she is. I clicked the "like" button on his comment. I've "seen" him a lot on Facebook over the past couple of years, and I enjoyed having him called to mind since I didn't physically see him much in my day-to-day life outside of big family events.

He was extremely affable, easy going, funny and sweet. Would do anything for you that you asked. His Facebook profile picture is of his grandchildren. I see that he checked into Facebook Wednesday evening via his mobile phone, that's when he saw Anne's picture and commented. Two days later he killed himself.

It's almost like my heart breaks for my Aunt Marie even though she isn't here anymore. This is her child. And I cry thinking about what he must have been thinking right before he did this. How much emotional pain he must have been in that none of us even knew about.

There are no answers, no explanations. And the older one gets, the more death you experience. It never gets easier.

Please pray for the repose of Michael's soul. He was a devout Christian, and I know that he would appreciate it.

This week I will post about the hafla and the party, both of which have some good stories attached, so stay tuned. But obviously, this was much more important. My heart is heavy, but I press on. What other choice do we have, really?

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