Throughout this last week there have been many reasons why I have not been able to find time to post. One of the primary reasons was because there was simply no time to be able to process my thoughts, and there were more important things that needed to be taken care of in wake of the events of this last week. The other reason was an intimidation factor – that there are simply no words that could begin to describe the thoughts and feelings that were going through my mind. Even now, more than one week later, I still don’t know if I have all of the words. But I do know that if I don’t attempt to process these thoughts, I won’t be able to move forward in my postings.
Tuesday brought with it a tragedy that altered the following days, and in many ways have changed things where I can only begin to process. A family very close to me lost their young son that day – completely unexpected and shocked us all. I’ll never forget the look on my friend’s face when she delivered me the news, and how at that point things would never be the same. The following days brought about a great deal of prayer, contemplation, recollection, tears, hope, confusion and a range of emotions that don’t even have words to them. I went to work during the week, worried about school, did my NCSC work but it all seemed really empty. Although I remained busy my mind kept drifting back into this state of grief, this sense of not being able to do enough. Emotionally I remained in solidarity with the grieving family, and it was helpful to do what little I could to help the family during this tragic time. I was amazed at the faithfulness and hope the family exhibited, and just a sincere admiration for strength. I know that they are grieving, but there still seems to be a sense of peace that has surrounded their household. I know that these coming weeks will have their share of sadness, but I think that this will also be a time of healing.
This healing time began on Friday night with the viewing and a special prayer service. At this point this young man was surrounded by many whom he had such a profound connection in his life – friends, family, young, old. I was re-united with friends whom I had not seen for years, and those that have traveled many miles to be here – to celebrate this young man’s life. If there is any good that can come from this tragedy, it’s the connections that were re-established. A phrase I heard over the weekend was "I’m sorry that it took circumstances like these for me to reach out to you." I said those words myself to many people.
The healing process culminated on Saturday morning, where over 900 people gathered to celebrate this young man’s life. I had the honor and privilege of playing my drums in the choir, and bringing the gift of music to this funeral Mass. In a sense I almost felt like the character in the popular Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy". I had no gifts that I could bring this young man to honor his life – I don’t know what I could do. But I was blessed that I had the gift to drum and help make this liturgy special.
The Mass was powerful. This was probably the most beautiful and spiritual Mass that I’ve ever been to – it’s strange to be saying these things about a funeral – but it was truly a gift. To look up and see a church so crowded that people were sitting on the floor, in the aisles to be able to be part of this celebration of a young man’s life. The love that was felt – God made His presence known. I was profoundly struck by seeing people who had left John XXIII so long ago through frustration and feeling disenfranchised. None of that mattered Saturday – no one cared about the reasons that drove people away. For one day people forgot about all of the bullshit that complicates our faith community. People forget that they were outcast from a place that used to welcome them so well. Everyone forgot all of the complications and the reasons for feeling the need to leave. For one day John XXIII felt like old times: from the congregation to the music to the celebrant and the participants – this was truly an amazing gift left by this young man’s legacy.
For me, Saturday was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. Someday when I have children and grandchildren I will tell them about this day, and the transformations that took place within myself and outside of myself. I think back to my experience drumming, and how difficult this was. I have played drums for almost 14 years, played hundreds of shows/concerts/performances. I have played at Mass for almost 5 years, helping enhance the liturgical experience. Never before had I felt an outpouring of emotion behind my drum set as I did on Saturday. It took all that I had within me to keep me composed. I remember playing the David Haas’ Magnificat, praying for the strength to allow me to keep myself together, to play my best and pay tribute to this young man, and ultimately to God. I sat there during the second reading and Gospel, asking God to give me strength. I will carry this memory for the rest of my life.
Only now can I begin to process the impact that this young man’s life had on my own, how he touched us all, The healing process has begun and the grief is still ongoing, but I will continue to pray for grace for the young man, the family that now loves him from afar, and for all those whom he touched with both his life and his death.