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  #11  
Old 8th August 2008, 06:22 PM
Bible Apprentice Bible Apprentice is offline
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Dear Shane,

Thank you for the gift of sharing your experience. It is a beautiful story and you relay quite eloquently. As stated by others, you are wise beyond your years.

When I first came to the United States, at the age of 10, I did not speak any English and had no social skills. I was very much alone as I struggled to learn the language. In 9th grade, a boy named Robert reached out to me. He was my first real friend. He offered to help me study, and we would sometimes "cut out" of class just to sit in a dim stairwell and study. Robert was friendly with some of the most popular kids in school and I was not part of that crowd. Because of my own issues I never realized that in spite of his popularity, his physical issues Ė which included a limp Ė could somehow have made him feel different. I was amazed and immensely thankful that Robert would take time away from his friends to be with me. Three months before the end of 9th grade, I received a call after school from a classmate I barely knew. She asked if I had heard about Robert. "He committed suicide" she said. I didnít believe her at first. Prank calls were very common back then. Finally, I could no longer stand not knowing. I called the local funeral home and asked if they had services scheduled for a boy named Robert. To my horror the answer was "yes." I was devastated. It was a Friday. Because of certain circumstances, I was not able to attend Robertís wake. I cried all weekend. To the "in" crowed, Robert was one of many. To me, he was my only friend. To honor him, I wrote a poem called "Empty Chair". I prayed for Robert every night for 10 years. Itís been 30 years now, and sometimes I still miss. I refuse to even think about the ramifications of suicide on my friendís soul.

Your experience reminds me of my own in so many ways, and looking back, I canít imagine how I would have gotten through the grief if I couldnít have at least prayed for Robert.

Thanks again, and God bless you.
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  #12  
Old 8th August 2008, 09:50 PM
BIDUMATTW BIDUMATTW is offline
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Bible Apprentice,
Would you bless us with your poem? I would love to read it.
__________________
Be it done unto me according to thy word....
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  #13  
Old 14th August 2008, 05:59 PM
Bible Apprentice Bible Apprentice is offline
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Originally Posted by BIDUMATTW View Post
Bible Apprentice,
Would you bless us with your poem? I would love to read it.

I do not have it committed to memory. I will be glad to share it with you as soon as I am able to locate it in my files.

Peace.
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  #14  
Old 15th August 2008, 07:12 PM
Shane Shane is offline
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Bereavements, technically, are quite generic things. They happen all the time to people, every day, somewhere in the world. As statistics go, they are as common as fresh air. But subjectively, they are major, rare (in terms of our individual life spans), and have the power to uproot a personís life, entailing both physical and spiritual consequences. And, since we are all unique and individual creations of God, how we experience and react to the bereavement process varies considerably from person to person. We all have our own unique ways of coping, of dealing with what is essentially a Ďnew life,í in the sense that our minds and our souls have been shaken to the core, forcing a traumatic shift of direction in terms of oneís consciousness. Thus we may be faced with thoughts we may never have had before, we may have to do things we have never done previously, and, most of all, we are forced to bear strange emotions, unpleasant and unfamiliar for the most part. Again, individual responses vary greatly. Some are forced to share their seemingly unbearable Crosses with a professional counsellor, others commit suicide when they fall, seeing what they believe is an endless, torturous struggle ahead of them. And others trudge onwards, guided by faith and hope towards a happy ending. Whatís most striking is that one can easily relate to these kinds of people.


Christopherís death was the first time I was forced to face the arduous bereavement process, and for a young, carefree sixteen-year-old, it is akin to the effects of a nuclear holocaust. Everything suddenly changes; actions, thoughts, priorities and intentions. In the midst of the turmoil, something appears into view - an awareness of self. This is quite hard for me to describe. What mattered yesterday becomes forgotten about. Bereavements are ultimately powerful in that they literally force the bereaved to accept a new philosophy of life, be it subtle or not. As for me, I do not consider it subtle. It changed everything in a mere matter of weeks; there isnít a day goes by now when I donít think or contemplate upon our earthly lifeís transient nature - we all will die, sooner or later. And at sixteen years of age, death and mortality are the last things on a personís mind. I went from living in a world where I had an organised and contented life, a good friend, a caring Catholic family providing for me, a healthy school record, and so on, to a world where I had no good friend, no one to play or share music with. Now, the reader may that a bereavement of oneís best friend would not have lasting implications, due to the availability of a good, supportive family, and other good friends to rely on. A short period of grief, then acceptance, and the continuation of daily life.

But it was not like that for me. Christopher and I were as close as brothers, and I did not have any other friends I could open up to. I like to think that a good, close friendship is like a person offering to share our Cross as we struggle with it. As we trudge on together, many jokes and uplifting stories are told along the way, so much so that the trip becomes joyful; uplifting to the soul and removing almost all attention from the burden of the heavy Cross. Then take away that friend suddenly, and it is incredibly difficult not to fall as the burden is thrown full weight onto our shoulders.

My whole social life had developed around the Saturdays, and so when it was taken away, I literally had nothing else. I was in school all week, and weekends became uneventful and miserable. There were no other friends on standby, waiting to fill the gap. I was on my own. What really cut me up at first was the way in which many of my schoolmates each had many good friends, when my only best friend was taken from me. (But looking back on it now, I guess our friendship was stronger; after all, we needed each other in order to have any kind of life, whereas other group of friends were not as strong in this regard.) This made me question God and His nature. Did He exist at all? If so, why was he punishing me, I wondered? Or was it punishment at all? No matter what way I looked at the situation, I could not find a satisfactory answer.

I began to retreat from the world. I continued with my school year, but that was about it. Up until then I had been a member of a local Irish music group, but I found I could no longer remain with the group. I began to prefer solitary walks than attempting a new social life. The forest and the fields became my gardens. While all this was going on, in late 2004 and early 2005, I had begun to develop a love for the night sky. Gradually, the constellations became familiar and the amount of the names of the stars increased in my mind. Many nights I would simply talk to the sky. I would talk to Christopher, and I just kept the hope in my mind that up there among the stars was Heaven and that he was doing fine there. Every now and then he would send me a shooting star when I said something complimentary, or when I thanked him for the wonderful years of our friendship, or at times when I just needed hope. There were many nights when I broke down under the stars, and suddenly a large bright meteor would streak across the sky. I am not going to detail the pain I felt during these moments, except to say that it was the most horrible spiritual pain I have ever felt in my life to date. It was a rotten feeling of desolation, as if feeling you are the only one in the world, cut off from God and everything else. I never really spoke to my family; I had no brothers or sisters of a similar age, for my three siblings are younger than I am. I also think my parents felt unsure of what to do and say around me. But they were there when I needed them for something and thatís what matters. Yet the Ďstar therapyí worked out fine, and it didnít cost me a thing!



Shane
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  #15  
Old 15th August 2008, 07:15 PM
Shane Shane is offline
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Also, today was the day of Christopher's anniversary, August 15th. I attended his mass this morning. Afterwards I visited the family. After four years, it is still as though it happened yesterday.
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  #16  
Old 22nd August 2008, 07:52 PM
Shane Shane is offline
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Default Part 5

My way of looking at life had also changed completely. I remember as I sat in the car on the way home from the hospital on the day Christopher passed, that all I could think about was how many years now stood between me and Chris. I wouldn't likely see him for many decades, and at first this tore me up completely. I wanted my life to be over so I could see him and chat with him again. I wished I was an old person so I wouldn't have long to wait. I suppose that these were selfish thoughts in hindsight, but I was at the mercy of many unpleasant thoughts like these as I suffered. I cried and cried at the thought of my best friend who was gone, perhaps gone to a place I knew nothing about, without any warning whatsoever, and (seemingly) without any correspondence. It felt as if a loved one had just upped sticks and left for a faraway place, there to remain forever. No return ticket. Non-refundable. So, naturally, the only thing that could console me was my faith. I had to find out where he had gone; I had to understand the 'place' where he had 'arrived.' This may sound bizarre, but these were the thoughts as I tried to deal with my grief.

Throughout my period of grief, there were times when I believe I was comforted from Chris. As I've already mentioned, he would frequently use falling stars at night to console me, or if I spoke to him. Over the course of the next few months and years after his passing I was given many comforting dreams where he 'visited' me, and reassured me he was okay, in subtle ways. At first, I would occasionally cry in those dreams (for I knew he was dead) as I saw him, smiling. But as the dreams progressed, I moved from sadness to being joyful at seeing him. In each dream where he visited, I knew that he was dead and that I was communicating with him in spirit, and this in a way was a good reflection of how I was beginning to deal with grief, and move towards acceptance. Maybe once every few months, a dream like this would occur. The dreams themselves were short but sweet; many times he would pop in and say a quick few words and then the dream would be over, and its impact would only hit me when I would awaken. Such dreams reassured me Chris was with God and not suffering anymore. Therefore, these dreams were an immense comfort to me, at a time when I was trying to make sense of everything. But these dreams were few and far between, often separated by intervals of many months or more. They came unexpectedly, and provided consolation, albeit subtle, but much-needed consolation nonetheless.

In the first few weeks and months after Christopher's funeral, I was reeling from the grief that was now manifesting itself. Questions about death, mortality and the afterlife meant dealing with religion, and I felt I had no choice but to search for information, which might bring consolation. I desperately needed to know more about Heaven and what happens after we die. So I turned to the internet. Many sites offered advice and help to bereaved persons, and one site stood out in particular, which had been created by two women in memory of loved ones lost in the Vietnam war. It contained a compilation of many uplifting stories and tales of faith, and the many ways in which departed loved ones let their friends on Earth know they're okay. Other sites offered comforting quotations from Scripture about dying and Heaven.

All of this spiritual searching meant that my faith was beginning to develop at this time. For example, I had begun to pray to Chris at night and say goodnight to him. The consolation that we may one day be reunited with our loved ones in Heaven is everything to a person struggling through the bereavement process. I also yearned to know about the future, what it would hold for me and for the world. This was fuelled by the grim prospect of possibly many decades of physical separation between Chris and I, which, as I've already said, tore me to pieces at first. I wanted to know if there was a future, for myself and for all humankind that would arise from the secular slums we call modern life. I wanted to know if the prayers of the faithful would be of any use; would they herald an era of peace, hope and optimism for the Catholic Church, where sin had very little power. And I was beginning to love and respect this Catholic Church more deeply as time passed.

Within a year of his passing, I would visit Chris' grave almost every day (sometimes multiple times a day, initially) and some nights I would leave in tears. Yet the worst part was not seeing my best friend's grave; rather, it was only when I returned home that it would hit me, when I would be alone again. Slowly, as months passed, I began to visit less frequently (as I felt I didn't need to), until the time came when I was visiting about once a week, usually after the Sunday Mass. Though immediately after the funeral, I felt times when I just had to be at the graveside; for I didn't know what to do or where else to go. Evening times were the hardest, when the schoolwork was all done and when there was nothing to occupy my mind. Sundays were the worst days. I could (immediately afterwards) find myself at the graveside late of an evening as darkness was setting in. But I just felt that I had to be there, as simple as that. In a way, it proved to be a form of therapy, as sometimes I would talk (and cry) and get my thoughts and feelings out.

Three times a year, I would buy a gift (such as a wreath) for Chris' grave; for his birthday, his anniversary and for Christmas. In these ways I was having more contact than ever with my Faith, and the hope of Heaven never left me. The signs that Chris gave me through the falling stars was a sort of 'proof' to me that he was okay, and this, I suppose, helped me to accept the will of God as time went by. I was angry at God at first; why would He take my only good friend from me, and other questions like these arose. But in time I realised that Chris was indeed in a better place, free from his health sufferings, which led me to think that God had not acted out of malice against me or against Chris' family, but that He had taken Chris because his suffering was done and that it was time for him to pass on, which God willed. I then realised, gradually, that God has a plan for us all; we all have different 'duties' to fulfil for Him here on Earth.

Then one night I said my first Rosary.

I cannot remember exactly when it was, only that it was a few months (or even a year, possibly) after Chris' passing. About 2003, a year before he died, a travelling missionary came to our school one day. He was a young person and spoke to us about the Virgin Mary and the role she plays in our lives and in our salvation through her intercession. Each one of us was given a little 'Rosary pack' containing instructions on how to pray and meditate on the mysteries, a miraculous medal and a set of blue plastic Rosary beads. I brought it home, put it in a drawer and forgot about it. This was before anything had happened, when my Faith was 'lukewarm', you could say. But I always knew where the pack was; I just never bothered with it, both out of ignorance to the Rosary's power and that I felt it was 'only for old biddies, anyway.' At that time, a single prayer at bedtime, along with Sunday Mass did it for me, like many Catholics.

Now, it couldn't be more different. The Rosary helped me immensely, and in short, it converted me. Not a bells-and-whistles conversion, nor was it accompanied by a blinding light and illumination like that which happened to St. Paul; it happened over a long period of time, subtlely. I kept coming back to the beads again and again. It's hard to explain, but simply, it just felt right, like praying was what we were born to do. That first night when I said my first Rosary is still clear in my mind. I was feeling particularly down on that night, so I took out the Rosary and opened it. I read the accompanying booklet, explaining the 'great weapon' I now held in my hands and of its importance, its many beautiful mysteries, and of the great graces Our Lady grants through it. I got down on my knees at the edge of the bed, spread out the booklet, and prayed a decade. Then, every few nights or so, I might say another decade. The depth of the prayers was new to me, and gave me great comfort, like satisfying a hunger that cannot be satisfied by eating. I felt, as I prayed, that Mary was listening and to this day, anything I have humbly asked of her has been kindly granted to me. In time as I learned more about the Rosary through the story of Fatima and through St. Louis de Montfort, I began saying full Rosaries, of five decades. Now I try to pray the Rosary as often as I can.

I think the effects of the Rosary started to snowball as time passed (2005 to present); I began to respect the Holy Mass more, and realised the importance of daily prayer. After Chris' death I became very philosophical; I thought about life and its purpose, i.e. why we are here, and so on. All answers led to God. In recognising God's special plan for Christopher, I realised that God has a 'special plan' for all of us. We were born to pray. That's how it feels to me whenever I pray, anyway. And this outlook has not receeded or diminished with time; there is not one day that goes by when I do not think about life, Heaven, eternity and God. In my view, for the small amount of time we are given here on Earth, we should do our utmost to make best use of this time, and appreciate it for what it truly is; an awesome gift from God. I think that if more people stopped and thought about this, thing would perhaps be much more peaceful and less sinful in our world. But it's only a thought.

I think it was Thomas Merton who said that all created things glorify God (birds, trees, fish, etc.) by just being what they are, doing the things they do in the world. I have come to appreciate this in my many walks across the Irish countryside, and under a clear night sky. Everything just points to God, and so many people don't seem to realise this. I have made it my mission to follow this path, to follow Jesus and trust in Him, with Mary's help. Hopefully I will stick to it.


I have now reached the end of my story, and I thank those of you who have been following it, and Ron, for kindly allowing me to share it with you. For me, it has been more of a journey than I initially anticipated. It is not always easy to unearth memories that have been committed to the past. As I said at the beginning, I wrote it to encourage others who may be suffering from the loss of loved ones that if you can hold onto your Faith, you'll get through it. I did. And the engine is still running.
God bless you all,


Shane
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  #17  
Old 22nd August 2008, 11:07 PM
Climacus Areopagite Climacus Areopagite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shane View Post
I think it was Thomas Merton who said that all created things glorify God (birds, trees, fish, etc.) by just being what they are, doing the things they do in the world. I have come to appreciate this in my many walks across the Irish countryside, and under a clear night sky. Everything just points to God, and so many people don't seem to realise this. I have made it my mission to follow this path, to follow Jesus and trust in Him, with Mary's help. Hopefully I will stick to it.

First off thank you for sharing your story Shane. Second here is that quote from Merton in Seeds of Contemplation:

"For it is God's love that warms me in the sun and God's love that sends the cold rain. It is God's love that feeds me in the bread I eat and God that feeds me also by hunger and fasting. It is the love of God that sends winter days when I am cold and sick, and the hot summer when I labor and my clothes are full of sweat: but it is God Who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood. His love spreads the shade of the sycamore over my head and sends the water-boy along the edge of the wheat field with a bucket from the spring, while the laborers are resting and the mules stand under the tree.

It is God's love that speaks to me in the birds and streams; but also behind the clamor of the city God speaks to me in His judgments, and all these things are seeds sent to me from His will."

Peace be with you Shane and may Chris rest in eternal bliss.
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  #18  
Old 25th August 2008, 08:42 PM
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Thanks Shane for taking the time to share this experience of yours with us.

Blessings.
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  #19  
Old 28th January 2009, 12:01 AM
Shane Shane is offline
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Thanks to the Grace of God, I've managed to publish a little book about my personal story, about the loss of my friend Christopher and my gradual conversion to the Faith. It's online, here:

http://www.lulu.com/content/5823306

There is a preview of the first few pages. Most of the content is in the form of two essays I wrote, one back in 2004, the other one is the series of posts above. Also included are some letters I wrote to help me through the bereavement process, and a tribute I wrote myself which was published in a local newspaper.


Shane
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