On February 9th the world as we knew it was forever altered. We began navigating a new reality – one in which the unthinkable happens – not just in stories or in other people’s lives, but in ours.
I do realize I’m not alone in wandering through a fog of grief. Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents and even sons and daughters die every day. Knowing this only reaffirms the reality of my own loss, which my entire being still wants to push away even as my brain, whether I’m awake or sleeping, tries to face it head on and integrate it in some way that makes sense.
Last month, when I flew to Houston, I encountered a friend while waiting in line to board my flight. I was dreading the flight alone, carrying my hidden grief among rows of strangers who would naturally be oblivious to my burden.
So, it was a relief and a surprise to see Marty whom I hadn’t seen for a few years. She is a mentor; one of my trainers for a specific catechetical method for children called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She also served as a catechist for our daughter Xhiv for a few years.
As we reconnected during the flight I realized that my friend deeply understands my grief journey. I vaguely remembered that one of her grown sons had died a few years back, and Marty freely shared about the deaths (a year apart) of her two young adult sons. Her joyful presence and the dignity with which she carries such sorrow combined to put me at ease.
She gently reminded me of a parable from the Gospel of John which catechists offer to the children. I had forgotten the simplicity and depth of the Parable of the Grain of Wheat. She reminded me how we show the children the grain of wheat and how it is whole and healthy, but then it goes into the dirt and disintegrates, when we dig up the wheat plant we see signs of new life both in the earth and above it, but we can no longer see the seed. The seed is gone, it has died, and yet we see its long roots and the green blades of the wheat plant growing each day. Even a three year old can see that, in dying, the seed is more alive than ever!
Marty has answered the call to live the life of a catechist. On a public flight to Houston with one empty seat between us, we entered a little atrium consisting of two hearts in love with the Good Shepherd. Together we pondered the Good News that Jesus had for us that day. As we recalled the Parable of the Grain of Wheat, we spoke Jesus’ own life-giving words and our meditation culminated in us rejoicing in the truth that our sons are together in Heaven. Though they have died and the ache in our hearts reminds us how much we miss them, we see signs of their lives all around us. The Good News sounds too good to be true! But it IS true! They are more alive than ever!