Monday, December 19, 2005

12/19/05 Little Boys Lost at Christmastime

There was a little boy sitting a few pews in front of me at Mass on Saturday night. He came in with his guardians after I had already been seated. I noticed him almost right away because he reminded me of Jason at that age. He had slightly unruly hair, and his ears peeked out from under the brown waves. For some reason, he turned around and looked right at me as if he knew me, and then he smiled brightly. I smiled back at him as if we had a secret between us. Now and then during Mass, he would turn around and look right into my eyes and smile.

I wished I could turn back the clock and go back to a Christmas past when a little boy named Jason would have been seated at Mass between me and Jim. I recalled one Christmas Mass we attended. At a point when all was quiet in the very crowded church, Jason passed gas. Of course, everyone was looking at us. I held the missal close to my face and tried hard not to start laughing. Oh, what I would give to relive that moment again just to have him close by.

Seeing the little boy who looked like Jason reminded me of what I have lost. It is especially difficult at this time of year when families are all together celebrating. He’s the only one who is not present in this way.

Recently, I told two friends of mine who both have a terminally ill loved one that my prayer for them was for the loved one to make it past Christmas before they left this life. I did not want them to have a Christmas with a death in the family as I did when my father died unexpectedly two days before Christmas 1999.

On Sunday, we received a phone call from a relative. Death had come into the Jolkowski family with no warning. Our nephew, John Elrod, had died from complications of diabetes. He was only 32 years old. While I took in the words and the meaning, it didn’t sink in for a period of time.

Later in the day, I called to the family home to see how everyone was doing. I spoke with John’s mother, my sister-in-law, Sue. Everyone in the family back in our hometown had gathered to support her. They were looking through old photos, choosing ones to display at his service. Her voice cracked as she spoke. It occurred to me that both of us had two sons, and that both of us had lost the older one, although in different ways.

Sue was in good hands, not just because the family was there, but also because my mother-in-law, who had also lost her eldest son, Mike, to death many years ago, was with her. Of all the people there, she would understand in a way no one else could. I spoke to her on the phone, too, but by that time, I was unable to express myself properly.

After that, it seemed as if the pain was flowing through the phone and right into my heart. I felt the pain of all of our losses, and most especially, the recent one. Now another son would be absent from our Christmas celebration.

Times like this prompt a lesson learned from a favorite childhood Christmas cartoon, The Grinch That Stole Christmas. It didn’t matter that the Grinch had taken everything from the residents of Who-Ville. He took their presents, their food, and their gifts. He left them with nothing, but still they celebrated the meaning of the day with glad hearts.

The story doesn’t tell of loss due to death, but yet if it had, the bells would still ring and it would be Christmas Day. The world would still celebrate the birth of the Saviour.

Our faith tells us that this life is not the one for which we were meant.

I think we’ll hear another bell this year. I like to think that it is John who is ringing it.

This is the only file photo I have of John. He was the ring bearer at our wedding. Jim’s brother Mike, is second from the right.

On Tuesday, I will update the State participant list for the Campaign for the Missing 2006. I will also post a piece about handling grief during the holidays in respect to having a missing loved one. This can also be applied in other grief situations, such as the one faced by our family this year.


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