Magazine article U.S. Catholic

My Life after Death

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

My Life after Death

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Ten years ago, on Memorial Day of 1999, I received the call every parent dreads. It was from a detective in Steubenville, Ohio. He asked me if I knew where my son was. My son Aaron had just finished his sophomore year at Franciscan University and moved out of the dorms into a house nearby.

On Memorial Day the house was broken into, and Aaron and his roommate Brian were abducted, taken to the woods in nearby Pennsylvania, and shot by two young men who were on drugs. Our families and hundreds of people from all over the country gathered at the university for prayer and to search for Aaron and Brian for five terrible days.

On the first Friday of June, we found them under two wild white rose bushes.

The ensuing 10 years have been a journey of grief. It is so hard to describe the unbearable pain that we felt as a family, that I felt as a mother whose beloved son was sacrificed to such violent evil.

However, we Catholics know very well the sacrifice that one mother made for her son to save the world--Mary, our blessed mother. And while I do not presume to be Mary, I have tried to follow her example in my life since the death of Aaron.

Patience, prayer, love, and faith have been the hallmarks of my journey--which is not to say that I did not grieve. I most certainly did. I felt extreme sorrow, guilt, anger, loneliness, despair. I am a psychotherapist and I knew that these feelings were a necessary part of grief. Still I wondered if I would survive them. I did with the help of family, friends, support, therapy, and the one thing which helped the most: my faith in God.

There were several things i realized through my grief. The first was the fact that God did not murder Aaron. I did become angry at God for allowing this to happen. But then I realized it wasn't God who took my Aaron, it was two young men who did it. It is the evil in the world that kills the innocent, not God.

God does not stop bullets; God permits us through our free will to hurt each other. And God does bring good out of evil, or perhaps it is better to say that through God's grace we bring good out of evil. The words of St. Paul came to me over and over again: "All things work together for the good, for those who love God."

It was hard to see how that would happen, but I knew it was true. God's ultimate will, which prevails over all things, is different from our limited perspective of God's will.

Second, faith is not a get-out-of-jail-free card--it does not guarantee that bad things won't happen. We mistakenly think that if we do everything "right," God will protect us and keep us and our loved ones from suffering. Suffering is part of human life.

If God would permit his only son to suffer, how can we imagine that we are above that? Our faith is there to strengthen and support us, to help us realize that there are many things we cannot control. Yet we can be sure of one thing: God is with us, carrying us when the road seems too long and weary.

Third, there are no answers to certain questions. Why was my son murdered? I don't know and will never know until I am no longer in this life. Why my son? I don't know, but is my son any more precious than anyone else's son? When I die, all my questions will be answered. St. Paul tells us in Corinthians 13: "Now I can know only imperfectly; then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known."

The fourth and most important thing to consider is this: When we say the Hail Mary, we say, "now and at the hour of our death. …

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