A Mother's Tragedy

How do you cope when your world suddenly falls apart? That question has been asked of me many times since the horrible night of December 9, 2008.  It seems, at times, like nothing can put it back together again.  The sudden death of two of our children, within six weeks of each other, has forever changed my life and the lives of my family, but I am managing to survive with God's help. 

My phone rang at 1:30 in the morning. My daughter-in-law, Joanie, was screaming, “Ann, John's cabin is on fire and John is not out.” I can still hear her voice in my head. I still repeat those dreadful words in my mind.  My husband and I jumped out of bed, and rushed to my 44 year old son John's cabin which was only a mile away from our home. The cabin was a landmark and had been built about 150 years ago.  We could see flames and smoke leaping everywhere.  I felt a sickness in my heart and a terrible gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I felt so helpless, but still had the presence of mind to call our priest to come and pray. Within minutes of our arrival, word had traveled fast and most of the family was there praying, hoping and frantically waiting for the fire department's help. At that moment, none of us dreamed that John would not survive.    

When we left that horrible scene and walked back into our home with the rest of our family, the only thing I had to hold onto was his Gift of Peace, the prayers that John had written for the world.  That book was a piece of John that I could hold in my hands. I stayed awake for endless hours. I did not want to go to sleep because I was too afraid I would wake up and have to face this horrible nightmare again. I just did not want to admit he was dead.

During the next few days, my husband and five surviving children had to make decisions at the worse time of our lives.  We picked out a casket for John.  It didn't seem real, yet on some level I knew it was very real.  We were still in shock over what had happened.  We planned the funeral.  We chose the Scriptural readings and John's favorite hymns. Everybody was trying to do their part to help. 

Here is the prayer from his book that we chose for his funeral program:

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 

My prayer for yesterday is that I gave enough of myself to make a difference in someone's life.  My prayer for today is to realize and be grateful for all God provides.  My prayer for tomorrow is to be humble enough to show compassion and kindness to all I encounter on my path and to spread a message of peace that can only begin with me.  

There were endless stories about all the good he had done, how much he was loved, and how his wonderful smile would light up a room when he walked in.  It was comforting to know how many people loved John. We just did not realize the enormous amount of lives John had touched.  I didn't feel I had the right to grieve so much because John, in a way, belonged to everybody.  It wasn't all about me. He left a great impact on the lives of many people.

I felt numb as I looked at his body in the casket, I still couldn't believe this terrible tragedy had actually taken the life of someone I cared for so much.  John and I had a special relationship that most parents would envy. We could talk for hours about everything from cooking, illnesses, decorating, spirituality and world travel. He was truly my confidante. A son, I trusted and loved.  He was always there for me. This was not how it was supposed to go.  Children are supposed to bury their parents.  My heart felt big and heavy and it hurt. 

On the 21 st of January, 6 weeks after his death, I attended morning Mass for John and had just finished breakfast when my phone rang.  It was my daughter Sally telling me that the paramedics were taking my daughter Tricia to the hospital because she had had a seizure.   As we arrived at the emergency room, the hospital Chaplain was there waiting for us.  Right then we knew the news was not good.  Tricia's heart had stopped for ten minutes and although it had started again, she never regained consciousness.  We waited and prayed, waited and prayed.  The family listened as I read Passing from John's book of prayers. 


Bring peace to my loved one dear God as the end of their life nears. Comfort them as they make their way home to You. Death is the door to true peace with You and yet we approach it with fear. Wipe away all sorrow and bless us with the courage to face this part of our journey. Forgive Your child of any wrongs that they may have committed. Although I grieve the loss of my friend, I hand them over to You where they shall live with no more tears, absence of suffering and true peace. I long for the day that I too shall join You in Eternity.

Finally, as the whole family was gathered around her bed, God gently called her home. She too was suddenly taken away from us.  Sadly, there was a second funeral for which to prepare.     

A parent's greatest fear, losing a child, came true for me--twice.  The reason I have been able to cope is because of my faith.  Although I have not been spared the pain of loss, my faith journey that started at an early age has helped me to accept God's plan.  Father John Corapi says, “God let's bad things happen to bring about a greater good.” I believe that God gave John those prayers for a divine purpose. John and Tricia's work was finished on this earth. Through his Gift of Peace , I found my greatest consolation. I now feel that it is also a part of my mission on this earth to spread this gift of peace.

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A Mother's Tragedy