Today I experienced something that I did not expect to come so soon, the funeral of a child. Yesterday a member of the fourth grade died of a heart attack. The name of the student who died is +Andres. +Andres has had heart problems before, but it was a shock to his family and the school that he died so young and so quickly. +Andres is the second child in the primary school to pass away in one year. Early this year a student by the name of +Gustavo died of cancer.
Today was the funeral of +Andres; it is customary for the funeral to be the next day in Costa Rica. I have never been to a funeral for someone so young nor have I ever served a funeral for someone so young. The prayers that were prayed were so beautiful, but it is sad to know that they needed to be written in the first place and yet I am glad that they have been written at the same.
Yesterday, when I heard about +Andres’ death I knew it intellectually and in my brain. I went over to the Primary School with Friars Jorge and Walter and spent some time with Director Rosario and the secretaries. I also took the time to e-mail the homeroom teacher of +Andres. However, it was not until the funeral that I knew +Andres’ death emotionally and in my heart. Seeing all of the flower arrangements in the chapel, seeing students and teachers crying, and seeing +Andres' parents pushing the casket of there only son made the situation real for me.
I knew that in my time being active in the Church and being with the friars I would expect to be a part of a funeral for a child; I did not expect it to be during formation, on my Apostolic Year, in Costa Rica, and during my third week at the school. I have reflected on so much today. I reflected on what it would be like to have lost a child. I reflected on what it must be like for +Andres in heaven. I have reflected about how I have taken for granted my time with the children at the school. In addition, I reflected about my own mortality.
Before going back to teaching, I decided to witness a ritual present here in Costa Rica. At the end of the funeral people where given balloons and everyone let them go into the sky. As I released mine, I said, "Goodbye Andres, please watch over us." Then to my surprise the parents opened the coffin of +Andres. I was unsure if was going to pay my respects to +Andres in the coffin or not. But I did. It was powerful to see him dressed in a t-shirt and jeans; after all he is a child. The coffin had a glass cover between the lid and +Andres' body, I touched the lid near his face and said "Goodbye Andres." I was unable to go up to +Andres' parents in person, but I did in spirit.
Today is a day that I will not forget. As I went to my room in the friary to get stuff for teaching, I walked through the chapel and took some Calla Lilies that fell from the flower arrangements which was placed on +Andres' coffin during the Funeral Liturgy - in total there were three. I have placed them in a glass with other flowers and hope to keep them for the year as a reminder that my life is in God's hand and not mine.
I may not understand death and especially the death of a child, but I do understand the God is love and the whole world is in God's hands. I have to believe in the Resurrection promised by Jesus! I say this not because I am a Christian, nor because I am a Catholic, and not because I am a friar. I say this not because I am supposed to believe in it either, rather I say this because I DO believe in the Resurrection. The Resurrection is something that I believe in my gut. It is difficult to explain. Looking at the faith present in the eyes of the parents and family of +Andres, in the voice of the friars during Mass, in the tears of the students, and in very sacrifice of the Eucharist, I know that the Resurrection is real. Some people may think that I am crazy, but one explanation of faith is trusting when all else tells you not to. Granted I do not have all the answers, nor do I claim to have them, yet part of life's wonder is its mystery. It takes faith to not only accept this mystery, but to embrace and to love it too (I read that somewhere).
On this Feast of St. Clare may she greet +Andre in Heaven and together may we all praise the Lord!