Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Own Feast of St. Helen ... 33 Years Gone

Yet again, I have endured another July 14th. Each year, it slams into my gut like a sledgehammer.

Since it’s been 33 years, I generally don’t remember July 14 is coming.

But there comes a moment where I have to sign a note “July 14,” and then it slams into me.

It happened again today. While I was at church today, mourning and celebrating the life of a member of our parish … I realized it was also the miserable “anniversary” of that day in 1977 when my dear friend Helen was slashed to death. The day on which she was grabbed on a country road and murdered, while she prayed for the murderers who were killing her, one hideous, bloody slash at a time.

It’s rather amazing to realize how long ago it was. She was hacked to death in 1977. In some ways, time has stood still for me ever since.

She was hacked to death when I was only 22 years old. Now I am 55 years old, and – each July 14 – I am still stuck there. I still cannot come to terms with it.

In my own calendar, July 14 is the Feast of St. Helen Finley.


Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Lisa, how awful. I am so sorry. Prayers and hugs for you, my friend.

7/14/2010 10:52 PM  
Blogger susan s. said...

How painful it must be for you. Prayers for you, Lisa.

7/14/2010 11:07 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, friends.

There are no words. If I haven't come up with any wise words in 33 years ... we're certainly not going to find them in a blogpost.

But I appreciate your support. Deeply.

7/14/2010 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot begin to imagine the pain you must feel, even after 33 years. My prayers for God's comfort are with you.

7/14/2010 11:36 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Prayers surrounding you to bear you in your grief.

7/15/2010 6:36 AM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Prayers for you on this awful day.

Interesting. Yesterday I blogged about that, in a general sense. Non-coincidences are funny things.

7/15/2010 9:59 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you.

I often think I should just "move along." But something about Helen's death keeps yanking me back there.

I don't know whether it's the senseless, pointless brutality of her murder.

Or the fact that she prayed for those young men while they were slashing her to death. ... Yes, that is what she did. While they were cutting her to ribbons, she was praying aloud, "Father, forgive them ...." We know that from the confession of one of the brothers who did this vile murder, who then committed suicide a couple of days later in jail. I cannot imagine that. I cannot imagine being that centered and compassionate while being murdered. It is beyond my wildest imagining.

But this much I know: I've written here about how I value serving as crucifer at funerals ... holding the cross high aloft during the commendation ... and saying to myself during that prayer: "Death, You. Do. Not. Win."

When Helen was murdered back in 1977, I was not in a liturgical church. Worse, I was subjected to a miserable Protestant sermon about how all this was "God's will." [Talk about SICK theodicy!!!]

I suspect some of this was kicked up yesterday, at Janice’s funeral in my parish. Her 16-year-old son delivered an amazing eulogy. He delivered it with a passion, self-possession, and composure that amazed me. In it, he said something like: “Mom, the cancer didn’t win,” and proceeded to enumerate the richness of his 16 years of life with his mother and his faith in her future.

His words reminded me of what I am often saying silently as I hold the cross during the commendation: "Death, You. Do. Not. Win."

I thank you for your prayers and good wishes.

As I’ve contemplated this over the past 24 hours, I realize that I am angry at God for letting Helen die … and in such a horrible, painful way. Somehow … someday … I need to come to terms with that. I guess I have my own theodicy issues with which I need to deal.

Thanks for listening and for offering your support.

[And, Maria, I’m off to your blog.]

7/15/2010 7:47 PM  
Blogger JCF said...

Helen is heaven, praying for us.

Lisa, YOU are awesome!!!

{{{Hugs}}} for you, in your grief (upon which there is no expiration date)

7/15/2010 7:56 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for saying that, JCF. In fact, I remember Helen every Sunday in the Prayers of the People, knowing/believing that she is part of the "communion of saints," and still feeling a connection with her. Southern Baptist that she was, I'm pretty sure she would be pleased with where I am spiritually today ... and still urging me onward.

Thanks, too, for your piquant observation that there's no expiration date on grief. Nobody gets into their 50s without suffering a lot of deaths. This is the only one about which I have never been able to have any peace. I am comforted by your counsel. Deep thanks to you.

7/15/2010 8:08 PM  
Blogger it's margaret said...

Blessed are those who mourn....

God bless you for keeping the witness of St. Helen before us.
God bless you for your grief whose fount is love.
God bless you.

7/15/2010 8:38 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Margaret. And you are right: Love is at the root of it. For in my narrow-minded little town, Helen was one who loved me. When very few did.

7/15/2010 9:33 PM  
Blogger Caminante said...

"Death, You. Do. Not. Win."


But the way your dear friend passed from this life to next defies words.

Just prayers.

And it definitely was not God's will.

7/15/2010 11:56 PM  
Blogger Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Prayers ascending for your healing, dearest Lisa!

7/16/2010 8:53 AM  
Blogger Leonardo Ricardo said...

There are no words. I have a similar anniversary observed in word except, possibly, unthinkable.

Love to you,

7/16/2010 10:54 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Caminante. I hear the fierce faith in your words, and I am grateful.

And thank you, Göran.

Leonardo, I do seem to recall that you, too, have a tortured memory of a loved one dying. My heart is with you.

7/16/2010 9:03 PM  
Blogger Jane R said...

Oh, dear Godde. I just read this.

Helen Finley, ¡Presente!

The ache endures, but Helen is present, though she is present with her suffering. Lift high the cross.

7/17/2010 8:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Jane. And thank you for this understated phrase: "The ache endures." Yes! It's no longer the white-hot rage it once was. Just a God-seeking ache.

7/17/2010 8:52 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Dear Lisa,

I just came to this. Words are utterly inadequate. The pain cannot leave unless love dies, which it will not. May the love permeate the pain until it is the overwhelming love you feel. That will take until the other side of glory. For now, thank you for honoring the ache within, the radiant spirit of Helen that could forgive her tormentors, and allowing us to be with you, heart to heart.

Blessed Helen, pray for us still journeying.

7/18/2010 9:59 AM  
Blogger Kirstin said...

"Death, You. Do. Not. Win."


7/20/2010 7:23 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Well said, Paul. I find comfort in your words. Especially "The pain cannot leave unless love dies." What a blessing, my friend.

7/20/2010 7:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Kirstin, in writing this and responding to comments, I have had you much in mind. Especially because Death. Does. Not. Win.

You know that. And so do I. That's why I so love serving as crucifer at funeral masses. I stand there, holding the cross, at the foot of the casket, and I feel like a Knight of the Gospel screaming: Death! YOU DO NOT WIN! God wins! We win! I've written about that here before.

7/20/2010 7:50 PM  
Blogger Kirstin said...

Keep shouting.

7/21/2010 2:03 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I am, Kirsten. And now shouting for you.

7/21/2010 8:37 PM  

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