I know this may seem like a bit of a strange post today, but I have to write honestly, and this is honestly what's on my mind right now.
I've been away from my computer for much of the day today, and when I sat down to read the news, I saw a headline announcing the death of the snowmobiler Caleb Moore, age 25, who was seriously injured last week in an accident during the Winter X games.
And my heart sank just a little, and I said a prayer for him and for his grieving family. Why? Am I a closet extreme sports fan who follows things like winter sports or skateboarding? Did I follow this young man's career or that of his younger brother?
No, not at all. Sports in general are a kind of alien landscape to me. I manage to watch an Olympics event or three every couple of years, and because my brothers like football I occasionally know who is going to be in the Superbowl. I got into baseball--watching it, not playing it--for a few years as a teen, but have not paid attention to it for years. I would say that my lack of interest in sports is because I am female, but that would be an insult to all the athletic girls out there, the ones who rise to all sorts of levels in all kinds of competitions. The truth is that I'm the sort of girl for whom P.E. was a legally-permitted form of torture, whose glasses got knocked off in every school-mandated volleyball game, who was always picked last for school sports teams, and who was positively relieved when I reached the age where girls on the playground wanted to sit around and chat about Shaun Cassidy instead of organizing yet another painful, tragic group activity like softball or kickball. I can't remember the last time I had a nightmare about kickball, but it probably wasn't that long ago.
So my concern for this young man came simply from my habit of reading the news daily; I read about his terrible accident, followed a link to a Facebook page where people were openly offering their prayers (as we do in Texas; the young man was from Krum, Texas), and said a few quiet prayers myself, invoking the intercession of this blessed who seems like he'd understand the drive to play winter sports, even extreme ones.
I have to admit that my habit for praying in these kinds of situations has increased greatly since I became a parent seventeen years ago. Remembering to offer a prayer when I read a headline about someone who is fighting a tragic illness or suffering after a serious accident, or even taking a moment to whisper the "Eternal rest" prayer when I read about someone dying, is not something as reflexive to me as it would have been to Catholics of a different generation (I once read an anecdote about how Bing Crosby's non-Catholic friends in Hollywood would wait until he was eating to tell him that someone had died, knowing he would lay down his knife and fork and bow his head for a minute each time--which also made them tell him of each death they'd heard about separately...). But in recent years I've tried harder to form the bond of solidarity in prayer with the suffering, the dying, and the departed, to recapture that old Catholic habit of praying on these occasions, and even to make the Sign of the Cross and say a prayer when an ambulance or fire engine races by.
We are an eternal family, and death was never supposed to be part of our lot. Praying even for a total stranger whose death makes the news reminds me of that. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
UPDATE: And another heartbreak from the news which I also missed earlier today; many of us have prayed for missing Air Force plot Lucas Gruenther, but his body was found in the Adriatic Sea today. May God grant him eternal rest as well, and send comfort and healing to his grieving family at this difficult time.