In the March 19 issue of OC Catholic I wrote a column about my visit to my father’s gravesite. I shared my grief, as well as the hope I found in the promise of eternal life. I now have to share what followed.
A week after that column published, a heartfelt letter and a book were sent to me in care of the Diocese. I was told the letter was from Carol Blair, the author of “Faith for the Journey,” in response to my column. I had planned to pick up the book the next time I was at the Diocese Pastoral Center. I assumed it was someone seeking publicity for a newly released title and I wasn’t in a particular hurry to retrieve it.
For the last few weeks I have been, as I’m sure many of you have been, focused on the promise of the Resurrection. I’ve been reading the carefully crafted daily reflections produced by Ian Cabrera in the Office of Communications at the Diocese. Each day he posts about Lent, Easter and the Resurrection on the Diocese’s Facebook and Twitter pages. One of those posts features a quote from Fr. Christopher Smith, episcopal vicar and rector at Christ Cathedral. Its simplicity struck me: “Belief in eternal life changes everything.”
So with that mindset, recently I’ve been thinking of those who have passed away: my father, other family members and neighbors, even people from my past. As I drove by Fountain Valley High School last week and into the neighborhood I grew up in, on my way to visit my mother, I passed the high school football field. For some reason, my mind replayed the tragedy that unfolded there decades ago when an elementary schoolmate of mine lost his father, who collapsed and died on that track as he was jogging with his sons on New Year’s Eve. I remember how horrified I was at the news and I wondered how Tony, my classmate, is doing today. I lost my father two years ago. He lost his father so long ago. Does it feel differently for him now that so much time has passed? Then my mind moved on to other things and that thought was gone.
At a meeting this week, Ian Cabrera delivered to me the book Carol Blair had sent after reading my column.
I started to thumb through its pages. Blair was married and with her husband had six little boys, ranging in age from 11 months to 16 years, when everything changed. After the unexpected death of her husband, which she recounts in detail that brought me to tears, she turned herself over to God to do whatever he wanted of her, asking that he care for her and her six boys. As the book cover says: “God not only provided for Carol and the boys … he sent her half way around the world to tell her story.”
As I dug further into the book, I realized that Carol Blair is the mother of Tony, my classmate who lost his father on the track at Fountain Valley High School. She, not knowing the connection, had reached out to me (a stranger) to offer me comfort after reading my column. Her book provided exactly that. I wondered, was God nudging my memory when I recalled my friend Tony? Did he connect Blair with me to help share her experience and her faith in this column? Feeling called to do just that, I recommend “Faith for the Journey.”