Thursday, June 18, 2009

Grief, Children and 9/11

I spent time this morning with my son, Matt - we went for tea at Starbucks before he drove me to my train. I enjoy these little bits of time we carve out for each other, they keep us close.  I get to enjoy the company of an interesting young man who happens to be my son, and we talk about our lives, about politics, about music, and more.

Today, we talked about death - a very specific death. It seems that Matt has chosen to wear a very special suit this weekend (my cousin is being married on Saturday!!). This suit had been custom-made for my brother, Tommy. Tommy was murdered on 9/11 and our world will never be the same.

For Matt, wearing this suit is a special honor, and it makes him feel very close to Tommy. But it also has brought back, very sharply, his pain and feelings of loss. Tommy was like a father to Matt - they had a very special bond and the loss of Tommy will impact Matt forever.

We discussed why God would allow Tommy to die when we needed him and wanted him here. It is moments like this when my faith truly sustains me, but I know Matt is still struggling for answers.

How do we teach our children acceptance? To accept that God allows terrible things to happen? To accept that we live in a broken world? How do we teach them to understand and accept that God will "perfect" a murder, that He created a way for Tommy's death serve His will? How do we explain this to our children so that they understand, when sometimes we don't?

I explained to Matt that perhaps God's plan for him requires that he has a special and very personal understanding of great loss. Matt has certainly been incredibly involved with Tommy's children, to the point where they think of him more as a favorite uncle/big brother than a cousin.

We discussed that perhaps he is being prepared for a special purpose in life. Perhaps at some point, he will be called to help children in need.

 Not that he wants to hear any of this - as he puts it, "I would cut off my hand with a butter knife if I could spend 5 minutes with Uncle Tommy".

Eight years have come and gone, and still there is so much grief, and yet also so much love! Perhaps Matt would not have appreciated the loves in his life if he had never grieved so deeply?

Each of us have found ways of handling our grief: the scholarship, the golf outing, spending time with Tommy's children, spending time with each other.

As I type, my PATH train is weaving its way thru the foundations of the World Trade Center, the foundations of the new "Freedom Tower".

Birth, death, rebirth as something new.

Creation, destruction, re-creation.

Maybe there is something to learn, still?