What a sendoff!

I usually start of my posts with an, “I’m angrier than…” introduction, but for the past few days, that seems inappropriate.  I also don’t make it a habit to post on the weekends. However, this is important.  Before I continue, I would ask that you read the first article that I’ve written about this. None of this will make sense if you don’t read up, so
please go do that first.  Clicky, clicky now!

Those 9,311 of you who read my most recent article so far know that a young lady, wise beyond her earthly years, with whom I’ve been volunteering at a parish outside of Albany, and who, in time, became a good friend, passed away suddenly a few days ago.  That’s the politically correct way of saying that she died by suicide.

She died at the age of just 14 and I was upset because I was one of
the last adults to whom she spoke.  She gave off signs that, in
retrospect, were red flags.  I should have caught it, having gotten to
know her a bit, but I didn’t catch them at the time, nor did anyone
else.

I feel compelled to share what I’m about to share and I am doing so with the knowledge and permission of her parents.  Some details have been left out for privacy.

I was asked to meet with them yesterday, the same day that her Memorial Mass was held.  I was afraid that they were going to blame me and I imagined that they were quite angry with me.  The past few days haven’t been so pleasant for me nor for anyone else; I’ve been crying and blaming myself.  I wasn’t really able to eat until last night and last night I got a good night’s sleep that I haven’t had since I was pulled into the parish office and informed of her death.

She died at school.  What happened was that she asked to be excused to use the restroom.  She went to one of the bathrooms in the back and it was there that she slashed her wrists.  When she didn’t come back to class after a long while, the teacher asked a fellow student to go find her.  The student checked all the bathrooms and couldn’t find her.

Ultimately, the student found the restroom and saw that she was in one of the stalls.  The student called out to her and when she got no response, she knocked on the stall door, and it was then that she noticed blood on the floor.  She, rightly so, panicked and ran and found the first staff member that she could find.

To make a long story short, they got into the stall and found that she had slit her wrists, to the point that she lost a lot of blood in a very short period of time.  They kept students in the classrooms while first responders did what they had to do.

Now, I’d worked with this young lady during Mass sometimes and, after some time, we confided in each other outside of church.  We became friends.  Good friends.  She was a better friend than any friends my age.  She was 14 on paper, but far more mature than some people my age (oh, get your mind out of the gutter!).

When we were at church, she was showing me the ropes on how to prepare Communion, walk the procession and how to be an altar server, so at first, we did spend short time together at church, fifteen minutes here and there. We became close enough that the parish office felt the need to reach out to me. I got the phone call asking me to come down.

When I showed up at the office, I could tell everyone had been crying, so I knew something bad happened.  When they told me, time stopped.  I don’t remember much after that, but I do remember that it was almost time for the noon Mass.  The priest decided to go ahead with it since people were starting to show up, but he shortened it.

The hours and days after that are a blur.  I remember a lot of tears and a lot of not sleeping and eating.  Fast forward to yesterday when I met with her parents in the rectory.  Her mother, through a friend from the parish that’s on my Facebook, read my initial article on the matter and read that I wouldn’t forgive myself.  She said that there’s nothing to forgive because we all missed the signs.  No one saw it coming.

Her parents let me read the note that she left behind and I won’t really share too much of that because she intended it to be private, but the letter showed the agony that she was living in.  This wasn’t something that she decided to do on a whim.  She’d been hurting for some time.

After I read the letter, her father pulled out another piece of paper.  He said that it was a list of things that she wanted to give away to specific people.  Surprisingly, I was on that list. She gave me her rosary.  I’d commented a few months prior that it was a pretty rosary, so she decided to leave it to me, which I was floored by.  That rosary is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

Her father said that the rosary was given to her on her 12th birthday, a gift from her grandmother who has since passed.  So it was obviously important to her, which makes it important to me.

They decided to bury her out of state, where their family plot is, so the Funeral Mass is being held today in Maine, as I alluded to in the previous post.  It’s for close friends and family, so they held a Memorial Mass yesterday afternoon, meant for a few certain people, and I was invited to participate.  This is amazing to me since I was probably one of the last adults who should have seen the signs but missed them.

She specifically wanted her funeral and memorial to be small and private, just close friends and family.  When I was invited, I was honored and humbled.  Though the crowd was small, it was clear that she’d touched more lives than maybe she even knew.  I don’t think she knew just how many people loved and cared for her.  Maybe if she had, she would still be here.

Anyway, the memorial was beautiful and I counted 19 people there besides myself, her parents and the priest.  Nineteen may be a small number, but they are 19 people who cared enough to change their plans at the last minute to be there.

Her absence is going to hit hard at today’s and tomorrow’s Mass.  She was the leader of the procession and an altar server, so not having her there is going to be difficult for everyone.  But what a sendoff she got.  People talking about what she meant to them and a reception after where her favorite hymns and songs were played.  There is one song that she loved, Klompendans, which is a Dutch dance classic.  I remember sending her the link because she was feeling down and I figured the song would perk her up.  Little did I know.

It’s the kind of song where the bass shakes the floor.  She apparently requested that it be played in her honor, and to see people clapping and singing along with it brought tears to my eyes.  It was a sad time for everyone, but in her honor, they let the song bring them not only comfort, but joy as well.  As some might say, they blew the roof off the place. 

After getting through the past few days, and after going through a few moments of thinking about killing myself as a way of atoning for her death, I’m starting to feel better now, now that she’s being laid to rest today, and now that I had a chance to meet with her parents, neither of whom blame me.

She was a pleasure to know inside and away from church.  She was a bright, intelligent and mature young woman with a wicked sense of humor, something you need to have to hang out with me.  She didn’t show any red flags inside the building, outside, in texts, on Facebook or anything else.  I just didn’t catch it.

May she rest in peace.  She will not be forgotten.  In time, as I’ve alluded to already, I got to know her away from church, so I knew her well enough to tell you that that her radiant joy, her personality, her friendship and and her love of music will stay with me forever.

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