For Brixton

Words fail when a young person dies suddenly and seemingly for no reason. On the battlefield, we understand. After a long illness, we are better prepared. But alone, over the weekend, without warning? It’s not enough to recite “To An Athlete Dying Young.” Even a funeral mass may be scant consolation.

Last night, a group of friends gathered in a Franciscan chapel in Boston to say a Rosary for a 19-year-old youth named Brixton. We recited the Glorious Mysteries and stood around for a few moments afterward exchanging hugs. With Michael, who drove in from Beverly with me, I left quickly. There was nothing to be said. I did not even know Brixton, although Lorenzo kindly showed me a picture. In the picture Brixton had just made a pizza, and seemed quite proud of it.

I cannot possibly imagine what it would have been like if Brixton had been my own child. But I think I would have wanted the same group of friends to come together in the same chapel to say a Rosary for my child. I don’t think I would have kept my composure as Bob and Sharon and others did, but there would have been some comfort in this demonstration of friendship, this blessed companionship in Christ.

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • Ferde

    You do have a way with words, Webster. Thank you.

  • Mary P.

    These stories make my heart bleed. When words fail, Webster, your presence speaks volumes. Sometimes it's all we can do! I will pray for that family.

  • Allison Salerno

    Thank you for writing and posting this, Webster. Because I am a mother myelf, I could barely read this and the accompanying poem. I cannot imagine the loss.I wanted to reflect on the comment you made:"Even a funeral mass may be scant consolation."What I have learned in recent years, from my parish priest, is that in the Catholic tradition, a funeral is not an opportunity to eulogize the dead and to thank God the deceased are home in heaven. A funeral is an opportunity to pray for the dead – specifically for the soul in Purgatory and to ask God for mercy. Very different approach than our Protestant brothers and sisters. We do not presume the deceased has "made it" to Heaven or gone to Hell. Again, we ask God for mercy and we believe our prayers can help the soul in Purgatory.Therefore, a funeral mass, when viewed in this light, could possibly have some consoling effect on the young man's family. So too will Masses dedicated to his soul. This is why I have really come to rely on Mass cards as a way to offer my condolences.Peace to you.

  • I shall pray for the soul of Brixton and for his family. I cannot imagine losing my own child… Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us sinners.

  • Allison's reflection really struck a chord with me. My husband and I were talking about this same difference of approach to death on Saturday. A young, sweet mother from his home church died on Friday after a year-long struggle with cancer. The over-whelming response from his (baptist) church to this and to her family left behind was "So happy she is no longer in pain and home with the Lord" – or variations of that. But my husband mused (a little frustrated), "We treat death like it's not a bad thing, when it is. It's a horrible thing. And we act like they are home, but they aren't because we were made for earth." It's like we protestants have forgotten how to lament the wickedness of sin's lingering affects. Namely, death. My mother unexpectedly died when I was 12. My dad told me that the Lord took her away because of all the sin in her life, that she wasn't doing any good on earth. But he'd still say she was with the Lord in heaven. Looking back now, this makes no sense. If she was so full of sin as to be no good on earth, why in the world would she be in Heave? Purgatory makes sense. That she first be cleansed. But this last fall I experienced my first Catholic funeral, for my 25 year old cousin who suddenly passed. How different an experience this was. There was time for mourning, lamenting. Beseeching God that his soul would be accepted into Heaven. I have no idea if he truly believed in God at the time. He was baptized as a child, but rejected God later in life. The grace I felt coming from that mass was more than I imagined. Though I felt lost as to whether he would attain to grace, I was thankful I could pray to the Lord for the salvation of his soul. I guess my point is the reality of sin. My protestant heritage tends to over-sentimentalize death (like Thomas Kinkade does art), but this Catholic faith I am finding does not, and further acknowledges that sin has it's affect even unto death. Hope that makes sense.This post was oddly timely.

  • Allison Salerno

    @MichelleI am glad my reflection was helpful to you. My priest has talked to me about this very subject when I have been coping with death of loved ones. He told me our obligation as Catholics is to pray for the dead. Attending a funeral is part of that obligation – it is something we can do for the deceased. Our relationship with them is NOT over but continues after they have passed through this earthly life. My husband and I fairly frequently attend funerals – probably 5 or 6 a year. It is part of the way we were raised. We go without hesitation and I am not just talking about going to Catholic funerals. Our boys have been to probably a half dozen funerals each.We know our presence and our prayers for the deceased do make a difference – for both the living and the dead. I have friends with other belief systems who are afraid of funerals, who wouldn't consider going to one unless they knew the deceased extremely well. But going to a funeral is not the same as going to say, a graduation party. Sending flowers or a covered dish is nice, but is nowhere near as powerful as praying for the deceased.Praying for the dead is something we Catholics take very seriously. And we know that when we die, folks will be praying for us, too. What comfort.

  • Thanks Allison! What a testament, to take your kids to funerals to pray for the deceased. At my mother's funeral I said in my heart "I will never attend another funeral." That hasn't been the case, of course, but I like your perspective. Not fearing the DEATH, but praying for the LIFE. Because that's what Christianity is all about, right – Life? (Well, not ALL, but you get what I mean, I hope 🙂

  • Warren Jewell

    To bury the dead, a corporal work of mercy, is a part of our suffering which we join with Christ's own great sacrifice. Even so, we join Mary in her deep grieving sorrow over her dead Son, Who she knew precisely was bound for heaven; we join our tears with hers.Still, burial can be both agony and ecstasy. When I attend a white-vested Mass of the Resurrection, one of the common forms of funeral Mass, and very often reminding to sainthood, it often lifts me to prayer not only for the dead and the grieving, but also to the glory God attains in having His child back – after suitable cleansing in Purgatory, natch.Then again, for myself as a young widower, to have lost my only-child-daughter while she was young probably would have shattered me beyond physical repair. Even to this day, my pillow serves like God's lap, where He huddles over me in my tears of grief over my lost wife, Sharon. (It's a lifelong sorrow to lose the very best friend of his life.) He knows of my heartbreak – He watched His only-begotten Son die a horrible death. The ways I could at all survive the loss of my two best-beloved would have to come from His hands and Heart. Yet, He understands the fragility of His creature children.And, where you know that a person really seemed to live a good life, in God's graces, pray TO that person every now and again as well as for him. He may have already cleared Purgatory's solemnity into heaven's glory. Imagine his glee – going to Jesus and opening his 'hands' and saying "Look what I got! What can we do with these?" And, the Lord pleased to see your prayers in those hands of His child, may think of ways to 'do with them' a hundredfold.