When we let the little cracks in our heart show, that’s where the light seeps out. That’s what I’m telling myself as I write.
Four years ago, I lost a friend. Gosh, the whole of my community lost her. She was shiny and beloved. She died in a senseless shooting. It was a murder-suicide. I try and honor her memory in my life in various ways, but mostly, though, by very intentional affirmation of others and a decision to say (with a wink to heaven) “Bless his/her heart…” before choosing words that might turn out to be less than kind. I still have a boat load of work to do if I want to ever shine a light as bright as Shannon’s. Still, “that date” on my calendar in late July makes my stomach churn.
Several days ago, I got another call. It was mom. Horrific violence, she reported, resulted in the death of three members of my family. Two were murdered and a third was responsible. He took his own life as well. I heard it, but I didn’t. I’m still reeling, to be candid. That call from mom came four years later, on the same day I was remembering how Shannon was taken. It was “that date” on my calendar. All the questions you have? They don’t have answers. Not really.
In a moment like this, nothing feels the same, and everything seems unimportant in comparison. Also, things are all numb and fuzzy.
I don’t really want to share more details, because those who are the very closest to this situation are people I love and they are beyond consolation at present. However, God has placed a few things on my heart and I think it might help to share them.
Keep this in mind. I am unapologetically a Christian woman. Actually, to be specific, I am a Roman Catholic. This fact frames how I think and feel about most things, and it informs how I respond to life in all its complexities.
Perhaps I’ve lost a few of you now, but please try and stay with me? I understand. In fact, at a local coffee shop this week I was unpacking sorrow and concern in the lap of a faithful friend. I am told even my whisper is top volume, so inevitably I am overheard. An interested passerby was kind enough to pick up the “Catholic” in my words and interjected that he didn’t “mean any harm” but we Catholics are all a joke with corrupt leaders. I’m going to assume this human hasn’t discovered the Lord at all yet. If that’s where you are too, I want you to know I respect how you feel, and I will probably pray for you even against your will. Before I continue, allow me to share my only viable response to this. I’ve not quite mastered it’s memorization, but I have the sentiment down cold. In my sorrow that morning at Panera, I regret I wasn’t able to think clearly enough to share it, so I’ve decided to victimize those reading with the wisdom I failed to impart that morning.
“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine—but for unbelievers a proof of it’s divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight” –Hilaire Belloc
Now, Belloc was born in 1870, but his words are the most relevant I’ve discovered recently, and they contain the truth as I know them. So, please forgive me as I share some wise words that I think will ring as truth for all who believe in Jesus. These matter more to me than any failed or sinful leadership ever could.
A holy 90+ year old Monsignor (that’s kind of an honorific in the Catholic Church…he’s a priest) who says daily mass occasionally at my parish told us last week to remember that we are not our own. A great price was paid for us, and what that means is that we are called to be the salt and the light. We are called to be the face of foolish courtesy and love for others—even if it defies logic. His message was so beautifully and simply delivered. It stuck in my brain—a gift from God.
Now, imagine losing your daughter and your young granddaughter violently. Ponder also immediately deciding to forgive the responsible party AND to have a funeral for all three—TOGETHER.
It defies all logic. It’s the ultimate example of foolish courtesy and love for others. It was grace beyond all imagining. My jaw is still slack considering the beauty of this choice.
There was absolutely no way to leave that funeral unaffected by scores of 8 year old girls mourning the loss of their teammate, or without being wrecked by the faces of two sets of mourning parents and grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.
Also, there was no way for me to leave there without hearing the daily mass homily I had filed previously in my mind that called for ALL OF US to be foolishly courteous and loving. Always. I could not even conceive of a more dramatic example of love than what I had just witnessed.
My dear friend Julie sent me this beautiful thought yesterday. She said, “imagine what would happen if we all think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them.”
WHAT IF? What if we all choose to see the right and love others ridiculously…like the Colliers? If they can do that, what small injustices can I overcome with love in my own? I think God expects me to try harder.
For the sake of three souls we’ve lost to this earth, and my own, I’ll be working on that one for some time to come in honor of the Langdon and Collier families. Only with God’s help will I succeed.
Love everyone. Always.
+Rest in Peace, Justin, Amanda and Kendall.