Before I left St. John's I let some of the funeral directors know I'd be available for what are called 'trade funerals'. Those are funeral home services for people who have no affiliation with a church. I've done them in the past because it seems right to be present with people in their pain and confusion even if I have no other connection with them.
So, this week I got a call to do a funeral. The funeral director said he 'thought of me immediately' when the need for a clergy presence at this particular funeral came up with the family. I was proud about it and agreed before I realized what it was all about.
The deceased is a 16 year old girl who was raped and murdered by a friend of hers last Friday night. That horrible crime is made even worse because it occurred at the foot of the huge cross above the city of Waterbury in what used to be called Holy Land. It used to be a strange little recreation of the Holy Land, from all I can tell. I did visit it once and it is falling into ruin and is so overgrown it is hard to discern what the original must have looked like. Apparently, except for the illuminated cross, the whole thing is abandoned--though owned by a religious order--and has signs around it telling people not to trespass. Which makes it a magnet for young people to gather....
And there, a 19 year old boy ended the life of this young girl, brutally and, from all I've read in the newspapers at the library, without remorse. It is a chilling story of almost sociopathic violence. The statement of the boy read like something out of a second rate crime book. Even the judge was shocked by the young man's disregard for his victim...who he knew and who had gone to Holy Land willingly. After the rape, the man said he knew he'd have to go to prison so he might as well kill her. Then he defaced her corpse.
And I'm supposed to say something to those who will gather for her wake on Saturday night that will....what? Give them comfort? Provide hope? Ease their pain? Calm their anger? I just don't think that is possible. This is so horrendous a crime that all the pain there is in the universe can't absorb the pain of the girl's friends and family.
It seems to me the four kinds of death that are hardest to comprehend, much less deal with are the death of a child, a suicide, a murder and some sort of violent, painful death. This is two out of three. "Victim Fought Back" the headline in the newspaper screamed one of the days. Oh God, I can't imagine reading that about one of my children. And if I could 'imagine' it, I wouldn't....
I am a man of many words. I've yet to think of a single one for Saturday.
It is so painful to think about--even from an anonymous distance--that words fail. There is simply nothing to say. Words are like fireflies in a tornado....
If you pray, pray for that family, for the soul of that young girl and, if you can find it in your heart, for the one who brutalized and murdered her. But for me--even at a distance--that last prayer seems a lot to ask of myself....
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