I have been bathed in bundles of sympathy in response to my dear nephew’s tragic death. I hope that this expression of sincere appreciation is adequate response.
Never underestimate the healing, helpful power of those cards and notes.
Since my last letter I managed to officiate at Brendan’s funeral. His body was cremated and his earthly remains were placed in the grave with our parents. My sister has the love and support of a large, close and caring family, but the day-to-day pain she must endure is unimaginable to those of us who stand and watch.
Hundreds of shocked and stunned teenagers gathered at the funeral home the night before the service to share their grief. His brothers Willy and Brett stood beside their parents and greeted each friend and relative for those four pain filled hours.
It was important for me to be able to keep my composure to conduct the service, which I managed to do. But that kind of emotional management took a unique toll. Please God I will never be called upon to do such a difficult thing again.
Last Saturday night as our twenty one Coming of Agers processed into the sanctuary for the special service which focused on their relationships with parents and siblings, I could not help thinking of Brendan. He was their age, exactly. Fourteen.
After wrestling with the question of whether or not to say anything to this wonderful group of young people-not wanting to put a damper on their evening-I decided to tell them what happened since our Boston trip. I told them that Brendan’s mother, my sister Gwen, had pleaded with her son not to ride in a car with someone who should not have been driving, or someone who was driving inappropriately. She told him to tell that person to let him out and she would come to get him, no matter where or when.
Brendan didn’t say no. I urged this assembled group to take such moments very seriously, and to make decisions that would allow them to have more birthdays, and to grow into mature adults.
I sat down after that serious and simple sermon with grave misgivings about what I had done. Then, when Adam Tobin was taking his turn to talk with his parents over candle lighting, he turned to me and said in a very mature, caring and careful way, “Frank, I’m really sorry about your nephew Brendan’s death.” You could have knocked me over with a feather.
After the service several parents expressed their condolences as well as their approval and appreciation for the comments I had made to their Coming of Agers. One father said, “I’d like to invite you to come over to our house and give that talk once a week for the next five years!”
Thanks again for your support, including the non-verbal expressions eye-to-eye, soul to soul.