I was in second grade when I was told I would be a good teacher. The person asked if I would want to be a teacher and I said no because “they don’t get the respect they deserve.” When my little brother was in second grade his best friend, Max, was killed.
On that day, before he was told, I was the one who stayed with him in his room while Mom investigated what we prayed was just an awful rumor. We sat criss- cross applesauce, he sat on my lap, and we watched Star Wars together. It didn’t take long for him to mention something about playing light sabers with Max. I greed that he should do that next time he sees him, and after he turned around to continue watching, I welled up.
No one ever wants to be in this situation. No parent should ever have to bury their child. No one should have to bare the heartache that follows the loss of such a wonderful human being.
I think of Max and his family often. I think of the story his mom told us about getting pictures back from being developed. That there were pictures that seemed out of please. There was a picture of Max sitting near a decorative rooster that no one remembered taking. There was a picture of Max and his best friends. It was unbelievable to his mom, but she was – and continues to be – a faith- filled woman.
I remember seeing her, what seemed to me to be, a long while after that. She came for a BOLD Youth Group event and she wore an angel pin. I complimented it. She said it was her Angel Max on her shoulder. My heart broke.
I remember the funeral. The priest commenting on a conversation he had had with Max about making his First Holy Communion. He was blown away by this boy’s excitement. The priest went on about how we would miss Max on that special day, but to know in our hearts that he would have his First Communion in heaven.
On the day of my brother’s communion and at each of his milestones, I think of Max. I think about how different things would be if he were still in this world. But, every time my brother and I geek out over Star Wars, I know he is with us.
So many times people are taken from this world all too soon, but it is in the memories with them and the lessons from them that we can share with others. When we can share the joy they brought us with others, that is truly how their spirit lives on.
I am so grateful to have known Max. I’m grateful my brother had the chance to have such a great friend. I am grateful that I had the opportunity share our love of Star Wars with all of my students. It’s no wonder I returned to St. Vincent’s to teach. There is special love that touches each person that walks through those halls.
Wherever you are, be it a galaxy far, far away, or Long Hill, NJ…
May the force be with you
always and in all ways.
And also with you.