Monday, January 21, 2008

10 years ago

This time 10 years ago I was getting ready to go on/to my first March for Life. It would be one of my encounters with the "minor seminarians" and their rector, Fr. Serratelli (at the time, now Bishop) and spiritual director, Fr. Bill, and my first trip, well technically my 2nd trip with Seton Hall United for Life (SHUFL), and I was slowly finding my way into the "trenches" of Campus Ministry. Having only spent one semester at SHU or 4 months as I figure, I was excited to get back, but college certainly wasn't what I thought it would be. Let's just say that first year wasn't easy.

So I made it through the March for Life and Fr. Serratelli let me back on my own bus (It was SHUFL's bus.) even though we might have been a few minutes late and was getting ready for the RCIA retreat that year. This is how Campus ministry sucked me in, they called and said "we need a sponsor in the RCIA program, do you want to do it?" I said, "sure." So I was going on my first RCIA retreat. It was a overnight retreat at St. Mary's in Sloatsburg, NY, and it was definitely an experience. We went Friday evening to Saturday evening so I was on campus on Sunday, which at that time was a strange occurrence for me.

Sunday, January 25, 1998 will be a day I never forget. I remember the phone ringing, and my roommate answered the phone and say yeah she's here. It was 9am, or around there, whatever time it was, it was early for a college student. I wondered what the phone call was about, Mom knew I was on retreat so she wouldn't be calling, and most of my friends wouldn't call that early,so I wasn't also wondering who it was.

"Mary?"
"yeah"
"It's Jacqi (Jackie), I had bad news, Gary VanderVeer was killed in a car accident last night. Fr. Geno's having a prayer service tonight."

The conversation becomes blank in my mind at this point. I remember calling my friend Carol to let her know, and she called me back to make sure she was awake and wasn't dreaming. I then went out into the hallway so not to disturb my roommate to call my mom to let her know. I remember barely being able to get the words Gary died out before the tears came. Plans for made for Dad to come get me so I could be home for the prayer service and eventually the wake.

I remember walking up to St. Anthony's and just hugging classmates and friends from high school. Church was packed with teenagers, those from youth group of which Gary was part of for his 4 years of high school, and ones from our high school, you know the ones you never thought you'd see in church. I remember Fr. Geno telling us that we did anything stupid and died that he'd come up there and kick our asses. It got all of us to laugh, and that it was mattered at that point.

The days following are a blur, I remember returning to SHU that Sunday night for Mass, it was probably the 8pm, Fr. Bill's Mass and the RCIA Mass, but I don't remember. I remember not wanting to be at Seton Hall, but wanting to be at home. I remember returning home to go to the wake with my friend Carol, because no one really wants to go to a wake by themselves, especially for one of your friends.

Maybe all of these memories are coming back because I was just at Browning-Forshay for the wake of father of one of our youth group "kids." Actually, what happened there was strangely amusing. I had a liturgy committee meeting at St. Anthony's that night and I had offered to bake the cake for the evening so I went to St. A's dropped off the cake, got a Mass card and went on my way to the funeral home. Now this was stupid on my part for thinking it was be one of those run in and out deals, but I thought it would be. So I pull into the parking lot and see that no spots are open so I drive around and decide I'll park in the bank next door, I happened to see a spot on the street so I opted for that. I walked in the front door of the funeral home and my thought process wen like this; "wow, it's been a while since I've walked in this way" "oh man it's the same rooms are Gary's" "crap the line's long" "wow it's out the door, just like Gary's"

I make my way to the end of the line and the person standing there is Gary's mom aka Mrs. VanderVeer. Lynne and I know each other from me going to high school and youth group with her boys and from both of us helping out at St. Anthony's so one would think we'd have been able to have more of a conversation other than, "hi" Honestly, I'd say we were both thinking the same thing, and what do you say to someone when it's the 10th anniversary of her son's death.

I stood there and said to myself, "God you have sick sense of humor, as do you G." At least I was able to smile a little. Mr. Frega's wake really did send me back in time, I was reliving what I had done 10 years ago, only this time for an adult taken suddenly, not someone my age "taken too soon".

Little did I know how much Gary's death would affect me. My second semester at SHU saw me doing things one would have expected, spending more and more time in Campus Ministry, and doing things one would not have expected, join a sorority, think about switching majors, losing a scholarship.

In the last 10 years I have probably thought of Gary almost everyday, I know the last year and half I more than likely have because usually when I think of Fiona I think of Gary. Two lives taken before we wanted them to leave earth, but taken when God wanted them home.

I was asked to give a 3 minute testimony of Love in December of 2006 for the parish mission, and I actually had a hard time writing it, now for me retreat talks and testimonies are nothing to write, I've been doing it for well, 10 years now. I chose to write Fiona's death and how much her family means to me. Seeing as they call me "aunt" but I'm really just a good friend of the family, the gigantic family that they are. My mom asked me why I chose Fiona and I said probably because it was the closest thing to happen. I remember thinking I could talk about Gary's death, but I felt strange considering that I was at home and I had yet to talk about Gary in front of St. Anthony's, and his death finds it's way into my retreat talks all the time because it was such a major event in my life.

There have been no tears this year for this anniversary, but I'm sure it will hit me on Friday at Mass. On New Year's Day Gary's dad was the lector at Mass and at the end of Mass I turned to my mom and it's been 10 years.
10 years seem so far yet so close. 2 years after I buried Gary, the SHU fire happened and well that and the events that followed are another blog, but both events seem so close yet so far.

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