I do not regret this year coming to a close. For me, 2013 will always be the year when my beloved son, Lawrence C. McClarey, died at the age of 21 of an epileptic seizure during the middle of the night. His death was completely unexpected. Other than what we thought were mild seizures, he had them from the onset of puberty, which we treated with anti-seizure medication, he was in excellent health. Larry was autistic, and I found him the next morning in his bed when I attempted to do the Daddy readings with him that he and I had been doing together since he was a small boy. In spite of his autism, Larry had learned to read, and I took great paternal pride in his accomplishment. He died on May 19th, the feast of Pentecost.
I told my wife during the terrible week that followed in which we buried him—a week during which I often prayed that I was merely having an extremely elaborate nightmare that I might wake from—that one of the most precious gifts God has given us is our inability to see the future.
Since the death of Larry I have found this prayer by Father Robert Fox to be of comfort:
God of life and death, You have taken a beloved one from me. My heart is very heavy. I recall that Your Son, Jesus Christ, became man in all things except sin and that He groaned in sorrow at the death of His friend, Lazarus. I unite my grief with Yours dear Jesus, as You stood at the tomb of Lazarus.
O Virgin Mother, you know what it was like losing your husband Joseph, and then your child. dying suspended between earth and heaven, with a sword piercing your sweet soul. To you do I come in sorrow, begging strength from your intercession, from you who fully understand what it is like to lose one so dear and close.
Share with me, dear Mother of God, the courage, the strong faith that you had in the future resurrection. Even after Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, you knew you were to be left alone for many years before your own assumption into heaven. You comforted the Apostles as their Queen and Mother during those years. Grant comfort to me now as I sorrow in pain at the loss by the separation that has come as a result of the sin of our first parents and my own sins. Wipe away my tears with the merciful love of your Immaculate Heart as you unite me with my loved one through the grace of the Sacred Heart of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
I had been fortunate in my life to avoid great tragedy until the death of my son. My mother and father died, both too young, and their deaths saddened me greatly. However, it is in the nature of things for parents to die before their children. Although I still miss my parents greatly, their passing did not overwhelm my life with grief. My son Larry’s death is a completely different matter. I have experienced the depths of grief during this year at his young, and completely unexpected death, and I miss him constantly and think about him all the time. In my sorrow the only thing that truly makes sense to me is the thought, as Shakespeare put it in Henry V, “We are in God’s hand brother, not in theirs.” For His purposes, God took my precious boy from this world and I must trust in His goodness and mercy for my son, his mother, his brother and sister, and for me. At Larry’s funeral Mass I quoted Job: “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.\” Many people find that a hard message to accept, but I embrace it fully. Without God my dead son would be nothing, I would be nothing, and all that I love would be nothing. With God, this brief life is a mere doorway into splendor unimaginable and a love that surpasses understanding. In the grief I experience now I truly understand, with my heart, as I always have with my mind, my utter and absolute dependence upon the grace, mercy and love of God. Throughout my life, God has given me a fairly easy path. Now a harder path beckons, and my family and I must walk it with the same faith in God that we walked the easier path. However hard the path, I know the joy that awaits for those who walk it in faith; the same indescribable joy my Larry is now experiencing.
With the coming of a new year my grief will remain, but also a new hope. The joy I had of my son while he was with me remains—death is incapable of taking that. The love I felt for my son also remains, stronger than ever, just as I know he loves me in the kingdom of Love Incarnate. That love will sustain me and my wife as we make our way through 2014, and all the years we each have remaining in this Vale of Tears. The death of a child is the most terrible ordeal I can imagine for any parent, but with the passage of time I realize that death, as terrible as it is, cannot kill my hope for the future. I know that one day I will be able to hug my son again and see him face to face in the land that knows not autism, epilepsy or death. We are immortals who have to die before we enter everlasting life, but even while we are here on Earth, trapped in mortality, we see that death cannot kill either hope or love.
© 2013 Donald McClarey. All rights reserved.