We may often feel like God is absent, but perhaps never so much as when dealing with the suicide of a loved one
(God’s) help consists in helping us accept his presence and closeness to us. Day after day, touched by his compassion, we can also become compassionate to others.—Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, par. 14.
Many times I accused the Lord after the death of my brother Scott. Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died. I knew that my 35-year-old little brother was in serious trouble, and I was fasting and praying for his liberation from addiction, for divine intervention, for a miracle. And still the call came.
“Judy, I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” my brother Kenny said as he wept over the phone, “but Scott just shot and killed himself.”
I had been sitting on the back deck saying morning prayers on a perfectly brilliant, crisp spring day when the phone rang. Sixteen short words later, the day went black.
Lord, if you had been there, I lamented over and over again. Where were you, Lord? I demanded, blind with grief.
It was another unexpected phone call that restored my sight, this time concerning a complete stranger. “Judy, can you please go to Miriam’s house and talk with her?” a friend asked. “Her brother committed suicide, and she is completely crippled by grief. I figured if anyone could understand what she’s going through, you could. Here is her address. She’s waiting for you now.”
I got in the car immediately, drove across town to Miriam’s house and rang the bell. A thin, frail fortyish-looking woman opened the door and ushered me in. As I sat on the sofa beside her, she began to share her story.
“I had been with Connor all night and only left for a minute to get something to drink,” she explained through tears, the black circles under her eyes betraying her inner torment. “When I came back, the door was locked. And then I heard the shot. I heard the shot and it keeps ringing in my ears,” she sobbed.
“I had prayed so hard for him, wanted so much to help, yet he died alone.” Her anguished voice quaked with sorrow. “Where was God in this?”
Unable to restrain my tears, I cried freely with her. Total strangers, Miriam and I; hearts seared together through tragedy and grief. Taking her hands in mine, I began to pray for God to heal her and grant her relief, and for the grace of a new understanding of what had taken place. It was then that I received an ethereal vision that changed everything.
I saw Our Lady standing beside her brother, just the way she’d stood at the foot of the cross the day she attended her own son’s death; just the way she’d stood for my Scott. And Jesus was on the other side of the broken brother, tenderly cradling his shattered soul against his own crucified heart.
I understood again that the prayers we say for each other connect to heaven, which is outside of time. The prayers we said yesterday, or say today, the prayers we will say tomorrow, they can reach back, to heal; they can reach forward to support. The prayers we made for our troubled brothers were not in vain. They were heard.
“Connor did not die alone, Miriam,” I said with strange certainty. As I shared what I saw, a new light dawned in her eyes. “Jesus and his Mother were right beside him, holding him close. And every prayer you’ve prayed for Connor, every tear you’ve cried — even now — is a beautiful offering of grace that carried him at the moment of his death, just when he needed it most.”
Miriam’s face transformed with radiant peace, the stench of death dissipated in the miracle of mercy. We smiled and hugged and then went our separate ways — both changed forever by the mystery of Christ’s presence, present to us and to all things.
Judy Landrieu Klein is an author, theologian, inspirational speaker, widow and newlywed whose book, Miracle Man, was an Amazon Kindle best-seller in Catholicism. This article was originally published at her blog, “Holy Hope,” which can be found at MemorareMinistries.com.