as i mentioned, my sister-in-law’s younger brother, ryan, passed away a few days before thanksgiving. i got the call on wednesday morning from my mother telling me the tragic news. in hopes of supporting my brother and his family during this immensely difficult time, i attended the funeral that was held a week later.
the family held a catholic service for him, as they are all devoutly catholic. i drove out to a beautiful church in maryland for the funeral and was surprised to find that the funeral was actually an entire mass in honor of ryan and his life. my sister gave the eulogy, and she was so eloquent and strong, despite losing her baby brother. she gave sweet anecdotes and spoke about him in a way that showed exactly what a kind and loving person he was.
honestly, i didn’t think that i was going to be so affected at this funeral since i wasn’t that close to ryan, but i cried much more than i even imagined i would. there were all kinds of people there, so many in tears and grief – it was so moving and was a true testament as to who he was – he made friends with all and brought together so many people. i’m an overly-empathetic person so of course the pain in the room really touched me.
even more-so, i gained a profound respect for my sister from watching how she held herself. i’m sure she was overcome with grief, yet despite that, she carried herself in such an admirable way. she watched over her parents, who could barely speak, and she coordinated everything from the beginning to the end. she really depicted such a reliable and incredible woman, and it really inspired me.
now, it’s been a long time since i last attended a catholic mass, but it didn’t feel too foreign since my mother and i went a lot when i was younger. i wasn’t very sure how it would turn out, i’ve never found catholic priests to deliver very moving messages during mass. i’ve struggled with my faith over the years. even though i went in an out of my faith, tony helped me find my way back – though i still hadn’t felt a strong presence from god. i worried constantly if our connection was far too severed and that i would never really feel him again.
but in that church, during such a sad time, i felt him again. the priest spoke about grief, and how losing someone so suddenly and at such a young age really causes people to question. question god, question reason, question everything. but he reminded us that during these moments, that is when we must worship. that is when we must take up the helm and face these tests and speak with god. that is when we need to offer ourselves up, whole-heartedly and remember that god is with us in everything and he has a plan.
when we went up for communion, i didn’t partake because i knew it would be disrespectful to those who had had their confirmation, and so i politely crossed my chest and asked for a blessing instead. when the priest placed his hand on my head, and said a soft prayer, i felt a rush of an overwhelming presence and as i went back to kneel at the pews i felt so overcome with belief and faith that i could not stop praying. i silently spoke to god, relieved that i could feel him again.
i’m thankful for ryan, his life, his kindness. i’m so terribly sad that he has passed much earlier than any of us would have anticipated – but even though he’s gone, he still helped save me. he helped me find those important things that i lost, and taught me so much. i think of his family each day, their grief, and i’m thankful that now i remember that sometimes all i can do is pray. to me that is so incredibly important.
the grief isn’t mine, i hold some of it for my brother, my sister, and her parents. i’m thankful that now i know once again that prayer moves mountains, and so i pray for them when i think of them each day. those private conversations with god are so incredibly important, and i’m glad i was led to it again. in each tragedy there is a lesson, and i hope that in this case, i learned it.
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