Last Wednesday, 6F got a text message on her phone from one of her Facebook friends in a town an hour away, explaining that he wouldn't be able to see her at an upcoming youth retreat, since his brother had died that morning.
I knew this young man, and his older brother; their whole family, in fact. His sister had married the son of one of our neighbors. All of the kids had been to the summer camp that I've volunteered at the past 20 years. He was dead? How could that be? He was only barely out of high school. . .
6F texted back, asking what had happened, and the friend said something about his wife having a bad day. I did a quick on-line search of the newspaper from the town where they lived, and the lead article was about a young wife shooting her husband to death (no names were given) after an argument. Please, God, no. . .
But it was true. The young man, who I hadn't known all that well, but as I said above, I had lots of contact with his family over the years, had been shot to death by his wife after an argument. He was 20 years old; Saturday, the day of his funeral, would have been his 21st birthday. . .
Utterly, utterly tragic. . .
1F and I went to the funeral on Saturday. The young man came from a large family, and an even larger extended family. They are members of a Christian community related to the one Jen and I belong to, about an hour away from us. The church was packed. As I looked around the room, I was surprised by how many of the people there I knew - had served with at the summer camp, or had met in one context or another over the years. We sat with the parents of 1F's daughter.
A group of musicians played quietly at the front of the church. The church grew quiet, and the young man's father stood up. He thanked us all for coming, saying that he was honored that so many of us had come to support the family and celebrate the life of their son. He made a few brief comments about his son, relating to his recent military service in the Middle East, and how he'd recently seen some positive changes in his son's life.
Then he paused for a second, and continued with one of the most inspiring things I've ever heard. "Please pray for [our son's] wife. She will be facing some hard things in her life, dealing with the consequences of her actions. She is very much in need of God's mercy, as we all are. So please pray for her."
And then he sat down, and the funeral Mass proceeded.
I don't know if I could be that gracious to my son's killer, much less three days after his death. I am still not so kindly disposed to 1F's baby-daddy, even five years later, seeing all the blessings that have flowed from it. So this young man's father, with whom I have been acquainted for many years, though I can't say that I've known him well, is my newest hero. . .
And may God have mercy on all of us who stand in need of it. . .