Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 25th, yet another day I will not forget

As I sit here having a beer or 3 and watching status updates appear on Facebook of "RIP", "prayers" all while typing up the Cornerstone team schedule, I am reminded of 13 years ago of when I woke to the phone call that would in essence change my life.

I remember it like it was yesterday, I had just gotten back from my first March for Life, and my first RCIA retreat(I was a sponsor in the program), which explains why I was on campus that infamous Sunday morning.  The phone rang around 9am and I heard my roommate say, "she's here"; I picked up the phone and heard "It's Jacqi, Gary was killed in a car accident last night."  I don't remember the full conversation, all I remember hearing was Gary was killed.  I took it all in stride, no tears yet. Jacqi mentioned that Fr. Geno was having a prayer service that night at St. Anthony's so I called my friend Carol to tell her, and I remember that she called me back to make sure she wasn't crazy that I had actually said "Gary had died." I remember going out into the hallway so not to disturb my roommate to call my mom, I barely got the words to her when the tears came. I have never been one to wear my emotions on my sleeves, so the tears lasted probably while I said what happened.  I remember walking to a fellow student's, who happened to go to high school with me, dorm and leaving a note on his door.

My dad came and got me so I could be home for the prayer service.  I distinctly remembering getting to St. Anthony's that night and seeing people at the Church who had been at youth group, whom I had seen in high school, and I certainly remember some of them not being very religious. I remember being on the steps just hugging fellow former youth group members and high school classmates.  We eventually went inside the Church, and Fr. Geno stared the prayer service and he told us at some point that   "if we died because of something stupid he was going to come up there and kick our ass."  It got us to smile and laugh and that is what mattered the most then.

I returned to Seton Hall confused, and obviously came home for the wake, my mother wouldn't let me go to Mass, some excuse of missing classes, but it didn't matter whether or not I was at the funeral Mass, it wasn't going to change anything.  All it might have done was allow the pain, sorrow and reality to sink in slightly faster.

Like I said I returned to Seton Hall a very confused young adult.  I did things that semester I never thought I would do, I pledged and joined a sorority.  Thinking back on it, that was about all I did, I wasn't a drug user and I certainly didn't drink yet.  ;)  It was a drunk driver that killed Gary after all.

I was very active with Campus Ministry and I remember signing up to spend an hour a week at Adoration in the "main Chapel".  I sat in the very last pew on the right hand side, this way I could see who was coming in next and what was going on.  I sat there and ask questions of, "Why God, how could you do this, why G, he was one of the good guys."  I sat there remembering our college ski trip, roughly a month before Gary's death, where at a Burger King a conversation took place between Fr. Geno, a Holy Cross alumni and lacrosse player, and Gary, a Holy Cross student and ruby player, about which sport was better.  I doubt any of us thought this was going to be the last trip we would be on together.

Oddly and by God's strange sense of humor, almost always I end up teaching CCD and/or Confirmation in Gary's mom's class room.  A constant reminder of the saint watching over me.  13 years have gone by quickly, the tears still come, but amid them come the happy memories of youth group and of watching baseball games, of which Gary was a member, after track practice.  I know we weren't friends and didn't hang out, but at youth group it never mattered what group you were part of at school, we were all the same.  Gary's death sent that fact home, we're all the same, we're all children of God and God calls us home whenever He feels like it.

Not a retreat talk goes by without mention of Gary's death, because it is the event that caused me to question my faith, to wonder what God was doing.  It also allowed me to talk to a very wise priest who said "don't ask why, ask how, what, how can this help me, what can come from this."   I never thought I'd get my answer 2 years later when the fire happened at Seton Hall and my friends were going through what I had already gone through.  From Gary's death came me finding my faith, may my running home to the Catholic faith and Church. The questioning led to a switching of majors and that led to it's own set of challenges, but over all I learned that God does know what He's doing despite us not wanting to know or admit it. Gary's death prepared me for John, Frank and Aaron's funerals (SHU Fire), which in turn prepared me for John and Dennis' funerals (Sept. 11th), which in turn almost prepared me for Fiona's, Bernadette's, and Nicholas' funerals.

Time does heal all wounds, but the wounds don't fully heal, they reopen a tiny bit each time you remember, but then you also remember how awesome it is to have the Communion of Saints watching over you and praying for and with you.  

In all the yeas that I have written and given retreat talks, Gary's death always comes up because it really is the first time that I questioned my faith, questioned God and wondered what He was doing.  It would be through      Gary's death that I could later minister to my friends and show them that time does heal, but that the wound is never fully healed and that it opens up a little each year.

I often think of Gary up in Heaven playing with Fiona, Bernadette, Nicholas and now Owen, because Heaven is just one big party.  ;)

1 comment:

Lucy said...

That's a lot of loss. Aug. 19th has that significance for me now, although I can't say I have been dealing with it as well as you have. My faith isn't as solid as yours and never was. I all but lost it. If you can get through loss like that without totally losing your faith like I did, then that is a real gift. Hugs to you.