My great niece died of a cerebral stroke this past weekend. There were no symptoms or warnings; she just collapsed. The best doctors could not save her life.
Anna was a freshman at a Catholic high school in Cincinnati. Naturally, all her peers and friends are distraught. Her parents and her brother are just inconsolable. All of our families are in shock, as are all of Anna’s friends and teachers. What a bright, talented young lady Anna was. She played in the band at the all-boys high school in the same area of town, and was loved by all the students of both schools. She had a bright future and an outstanding personality.
Her parents told me that her grade-school graduation motto was “To Help People.” Because that motto so captured her personality, her parents agreed that she could help people, even in death, by being an organ donor. Her grandmother, my sister-in-law, said that now Anna could help all of us from heaven.
In this Year of Mercy, it is sure hard to understand God’s ways in a situation like this. Just thinking about what happened and how it has impacted so many, brings tears to my eyes. God’s ways are not our ways, of course. But why would God give this gift of life for such a short time?
I have no answer, even though I have heard this same question many times in my years as a Franciscan priest. All that I can do is be a minister of the sacraments and pray in solidarity with everyone facing the same grief.
This morning at the Eucharist, as I read the Gospel of John, I choked on the passage where Christ tells his disciples at the Last Supper that they will face difficulties in this life, but they should take courage because he has conquered the world (16:33).
Those words are incredibly important to me and my family in this time of grief. Lord, take Anna home, and help all of us who are left behind, to live our faith and show your love to the world.