Each year at this same time, my memory seems to automatically wind itself back to a place of great sorrow hidden deep within my heart.
I am a widow who once upon a time suffered a great loss when God unexpectedly called my son Daniel home to sing with the angels and shortly afterward called my husband Steven to join him.
The other evening, I happened to be meditating on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary when I had a memory so fresh and vivid about the day my husband died that I felt a need to share that recollection with you here during the Lenten season.
This is the story of Steven’s death and what I feel was a sign from God our Father to me on how just one life well lived can touch so many others.
On a warm July day in 2006, I had arrived home from work to find my kitchen in a bit of disarray. Since Steven had been ill for some time, he had taken on cooking duties and had volunteered to clean the oven while I was at work.
Upon entering our home, I called Steven’s name, and when he didn’t answer, I looked throughout the house for him. Arriving in the basement, I searched room after room, and when I turned into the last room, I found him.
He was lifeless.
It was as if the angels had simply whisked him into heaven while I was away.
I rushed for the phone to dial 9-1-1 and ran upstairs to await the ambulance.
A police officer arrived first on the scene and confirmed for me what I already knew; that it appeared Steven’s heart had stopped. The EMTs arrived a short time later and made a valiant effort to resuscitate, but as the officer had told me, it was already too late.
The police officer consoled me and offered to stand by my side while I contacted my two sons who each lived a couple of hours away. Upon hearing the news, my son Mike immediately called our parish priest, Father Jim, to let him know that there was an emergency at my house and to request that he please come now.
Soon a kindly lady from the parish office arrived at my home to hold my hand and tell me that Father Jim had been on the other side of town about to start a daily Mass, but he had cancelled and was on his way over.
A black sky
While I was awaiting Father Jim, a violent, unexpected storm came up, solely in our region. The sky grew black, the winds picked up, and angry thunder and lightning began to roar directly over my house.
I called my father and mother to break the news and to ask them to come be with me, but my father indicated that due to the violent weather in my area, it would be impossible to come until the storm subsided.
In the meantime, Father Jim arrived and followed me downstairs to view Steven. He indicated that it was too late to administer the sacrament of anointing of the sick; however he did give Steven a final blessing.
While we were waiting upstairs for the coroner to arrive, Father Jim noted to me that this odd storm reminded him very much of Good Friday. For on that day, the sky also grew black and storm clouds rolled while thunder and lightning commenced as the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross.
Father Jim was so taken aback by this odd coincidence that at Steven’s funeral, he chose to read the Gospel story from Good Friday.
During the homily, Father Jim described Steven as he was known in our church. Always the willing volunteer, with a big heart and a ready ear; he had been a true servant of God.
Father Jim reminded the mourners that after our son Daniel had passed away two years prior, something in Steven had changed and faith became his portion and shield in life. Comforting and consoling others became his mission.
A true gentleman
Steven had been my husband, best friend, lover, and the father of my children. As couples who have been married a long time can tell you, they become so familiar with one another it oftentimes leads spouses to take each other’s gentle nature for granted. So I had been blind to the changes in Steven and the purpose that motivated him.
Now, here I was at my husband’s funeral listening as Father Jim described the storm on Good Friday and how after the passing of Jesus, someone finally spoke up to say “He truly was the Son of God.”
Father Jim elaborated a bit further and went on to say that Steven himself had been a good and holy man. His love of God had made him not only a cherished husband and beloved father but an example of the kind and gentle way that Jesus had taught us to live.
Steven was a simple man with an enduring love of God and passion for life. His legacy is that of being a loving father who through his own example guided his sons to become gentlemen in every sense of the word.
Prior to Father Jim’s homily, I had always assumed that God’s mission for me had been to enhance Steven’s life. Father Jim turned the tables on me and pointed out that God had put Steven into my life to teach me humility, patience, understanding, gratitude and love of God.
I am a continual work in progress, and because Steven introduced me to these qualities, I am a better person for loving him.
I will always hold wonderful memories of Steven and Daniel within my heart, but I am open to the call of God my Father. I remember and try to live by the words of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…”
I have a picture in an old photo album of Steven and Daniel.
In it, a young Steven is teaching 1-year-old Daniel to ride a tricycle. When I look closely, I can see a glimmer of things to come in Steven’s eyes.
What can’t be seen in the picture is the love he held deep within his heart. You see, he knew how to love, honor and cherish not only me, but God our Father. And he proved that love every day of his life through his kind and gentle nature.
Now that’s what I call an everlasting love.