This belief brings me comfort this week as I mourn the loss of an old friend. I met Rich when I was in the first grade. He and I attended eight years of Catholic elementary school and four years of Catholic high school together in the suburbs outside of Chicago. We were not close friends during those twelve years, but when the St. Mary’s 8th grade Class of ’77 found each other on Facebook over three years ago, the bonds from having grown up together all those years ago came back, and the synergy, both on the web and at our eventual reunion, was tangible. It was real! There was a bond…There IS a bond. My friend Rich left this world on March 12th on his own terms. I did not know he was battling severe depression over the past year. I found out this week that his attempts at seeking help through medication were unsuccessful. He died the way people die from severe depression. Suicide IS the end result of untreatable depression. My friend Rich was an avowed atheist who also happened to be Gay. Since reconnecting on Facebook, Rich and I have shared some very lively blog posts. He loved to point out “the error of my ways” for believing in an unscientifically proven God. I loved teasing him that he wasn't helping my cause, as I blogged in frustration at the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. I loved Rich. The fact is, I didn't tell him I loved him simply because I was called to love him, “as a Christian” and I certainly had no intention of ever trying to change who he was. I truly loved Rich for precisely who he was. First and foremost, I loved his sense of humor. Just recently I was venting on Facebook about running into a person with whom I used to be close, but for whom I have lost much respect in recent years. I wrote, “Some people go through life blissfully unaware that they are part of the problem, and who, but for their lack of courage, could be part of the solution”. Rich, in his usual witty flare responded, “Oh geez, what did I do now?” I was quick to respond to Rich that he was NOT part of the problem. No, Rich was SO part of the solution.
I say this because Rich’s mind was beautiful! He had the ability to get to the heart of an issue. As a fellow logical thinker, with a sarcastic tone that couldn’t hold a candle to his, I had an immense appreciation for Rich’s mind. He challenged me to think, and NOT to take things at face value. But he always communicated to me in a respectful manner, and never judged me for having beliefs that couldn’t necessarily be proven through science. Someone once told me, “Thoughts are energy, and since energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed, our thoughts live on after our physical bodies pass away”. I find comfort in this because it means that Rich’s thoughts will remain as an energy force in our world. I want and need Rich’s thoughtful energy in my life. I believe our world needs the thoughtful energy Rich shared with so many of us.So I share this reflection hopefully to bring some level of comfort to Rich’s family and friends. I especially reach out to my fellow classmates from the St. Mary’s Class of ’77. Gone are the days when word of the manner of someone’s death had to be spoken of in hushed circles. And if I am correct in my belief about the Body of Christ, Rich died in the loving embrace of THIS community of love. We physically embraced Rich with our outstretched arms of love when we reconnected with him three years ago, and we continue to hold him in our loving embrace today, through our thoughts and memories of him. I believe that matters for us, and for Rich.
Mary Hanlon Castronuovo