I have had a lot of people tell me that my faith in the aftermath of my son’s suicide inspires them. When people tell me that I always assume I must be putting on some kind of image of myself that is not true because I do not feel like I have strong faith at all. I have doubted everything I came to believe in the last eight years of being Catholic since the day that I buried my son. Everything single thing.
There is a Before Anthony Died and an After Anthony Died point in my life.
Before Anthony Died I would pray for my children with the idea that because I was doing God’s work and telling people what He has done for me that He would “protect” me and my family, and by “protect”, I meant that He would not allow anything bad to happen to us. We would have enough money to eat, pay our bills, live our life happily and that none of my children would suffer, much less die by suicide. When I read the bible verse about the sparrows I assumed that meant that God would make sure our life was comfortable and without struggle. I believed that even as I denounced the prosperity gospel totally blind to the fact that I was, in fact, a follower of Prosperity Gospel 2.0, the Catholic version.
Since Anthony’s suicide my faith is one hundred percent rooted in hanging on to God for dear life. God is not just an answer among many, God is my only answer. He is my only hope and only He can save me from this mess called life where all of our sins contribute to the decay of ourselves and each other. Only God Himself is capable of redeeming any of this. Most of all it is only God Who is capable of redeeming me. I am not even capable of paying the light bill.
Before Anthony’s death my entire faith life was based on emotion. How I felt dictated how I acted, if I went to Mass, if I went to confession, if I made time for Adoration or even if I was going to be kind to others. It was all based on me, my feelings, my opinions, my motivation to earn my salvation and my own need to be accepted, liked and stamped with approval by everyone. I thought that was how to know if I was doing God’s will. Now, everything is rooted in God. I barely feel anything other than desperation to know Him, love Him, do what He wants and ask for His mercy when I fail at any of those things, which is often.
I no longer care to be accepted and when I find myself feeling drawn to that desire I am quickly reminded that Anthony is dead and it fades away. Same with everything else that is orientated in anything but God. God is no longer an emotion for me. I do not get goosebumps when I go to Mass, in fact I cry the entire time and I don’t know why other than it is where I can expose my heart to Him. My heart that is in pieces and that only He can put back together.
When the bottom to life falls out and my instinct is to freak out and panic I just hand it to God because I know nothing compares to the devastation of watching my son’s body get rolled out of my garage in a body bag. God is the only reason I am still standing after that and if He can hold me up through a moment like that then surely He can hold me up when I don’t get an expected check to pay for therapy or when I can’t focus enough to take my mid-term.
I guess that is my point. Faith is not what I thought it was. I used to think that it was piety or holiness or perfection but really Faith is knowing that no matter what happens God is God and I am me. I depend on Him for every breath, I depend on Him for every heartbeat and I depend on Him for the salvation of me and my children. There is no other way but to depend on Him every second of my day which is soaked in the kind of grief that makes it impossible to depend on anyone or anything else.