Some titles just write themselves, don’t they?
Shortly after Sadie’s death, a woman came to us who had herself experienced the loss of a child by suicide. She said, “I count Wednesdays, you’re probably going to count Thursdays.” Sometimes Thursdays come and go unnoticed. Sometimes they make themselves known by a swelling in the chest that appears, almost unnoticed, softly as if on the feet of a small child. This swell slowly rises, crests, and releases in what another friend calls a “golden moment”. These are bittersweet moments that are paradoxically despised even while they are treasured.
Sometimes days loom in the distance like headlights approaching on the horizon. This one is a bit like that.
The question that comes up some days is, “How are you?” Rather than answer that directly, I’ll prefer to share with you some thoughts that point beyond this question to something else that is perhaps bigger and more meaningful. Perhaps in an odd way this will help answer that question.
So much of the last six months has involved us telling our story. This has been important, and I’ll tell you why. Very soon after Sadie’s death, someone posted Sadie’s death announcement on her Instagram site. Of course, it went viral. It was at that moment that familial privacy ceased to be an option. The option for privacy was a choice we never had. It seemed the whole world knew. As a counselor told us, “I knew you before I ever met you.”
Looking back, we faced a double blast: a wall of silence that concealed, hid, and enabled — followed immediately by an all-consuming wave of uncontrolled Internet traffic that disrupted, exposed, and violated. And so, if privacy had ever been an option, perhaps so too would have been the option to remain silent. However since privacy was never an option, neither was silence. The only available course was, and remains, for us to own our own story.
Why is this so hard?
Fear is a natural reaction to the horrific. But what is the opposite of fear? What is that thing that causes one not to run away from the flames, to dive into the flames. It is not courage. It is hope. Courage does not cause a man to dive into the burning wreckage. It is hope — hope that a child will be found alive within the flames.
But hope is not a natural reaction to the horrific. It is a supernatural reaction. The people of all ages that have felt compelled to rush to our aid have been compelled by something that is in this world, but not of this world. And yes, throughout all of this, with the scales of worldliness stripped from our eyes, we have seen a stark drama played out in the eyes of our friends, family, coworkers, and strangers. This is the battle between fear and hope. This battle has been as clear to us as a whistle in the sun.
Now there’s bad news too. The forces that fight against hope are also supernatural — and weapons they use to spread fear are silence and shame.
This road is not easy. In fact at times its a bitch from hell. But at the end of the day there’s that hope…
St. John Paul the Great began his pontificate with three words spoken boldly to the world in his rich Slavic accent: “Be not afraid!”
Young people, these words are as revolutionary and subversive as they come. March strongly on in hope — it is a supernatural calling. The wind that will fill your sails is not of your own making and will carry you far.
Let’s keep talking.