The first column of 2014 but really an extension of the last column of 2013.
It was last Sunday that I was waxing philosophical about putting fear, sadness and trepidation behind me and looking forward to the new year with great expectation.
And I was cruising along with those happy Patty thoughts when it happened an unimaginable tragedy so horrendous that I can barely acknowledge the reality of it.
The day after Christmas my niece / goddaughter (and truth be told, honorary daughter!) Kelly called me with the news that one of her dearest friends from grade and high school had been killed in a car accident.
That was all I could think, though what I heard the sound of my own voice saying aloud repeatedly was, "Oh my God, oh my God "
And, as the horrendous truth of the situation began to seep into my consciousness, I did all I knew to do: pray. Pray for her soul, pray for her parents and brother, themselves so physically and emotionally destroyed, pray that as long as I draw breath I may not know such unspeakable dread, shock, horror.
I squeezed my child so very tightly, staring deep into his face and feeling guilty for even thinking about my own fear in the face of their absolute devastation.
Why do bad things happen to good people? I'm afraid my human brain will never comprehend such things.
And, as I cried on the shoulder of my wonderful, caring friend Christine Ruggieri of Warren, she shared with me a lovely story. She told me about a woman at her church who was struggling through the holiday season after having recently lost her mother. The lady, though grief-stricken, had come to the conclusion (with the aid of her priest) that it might help to honor her mother by committing to one act of random kindness for each year of her mother's life. I believe that magic number was 90.
"Maybe sometimes the only way to hurt a little less is to help someone else feel a little better," said Chris.
Not hard to understand why I love her so much, is it?
I sought some wisdom from my very good friend, the Rev. Christopher Cicero (another Warren native!) whom I consult on a great many matters. This time, I was looking for a little guidance on navigating through this heart-wrenching grief. Here's what he told me:
"When a loved one dies, we quickly dig into our memories, which tend to be pretty clear. We take ownership of the love we have had in the past. At the same time, we hope to continue that love in the present and future but how? The answer seems to be prayer. We pray for the dead because we love them but what other gift can we give to directly impact the departed? We can say to God: 'Have mercy on them. Welcome them home. Give them peace. Unite them to Yourself.'"
He went on to say that it is faith which gives us hope that our love for one another and for God is eternal. "Jesus Christ is risen therefore we have a future! The grieving families I minister to are consoled by happy memories and the trust that we can always have life through, with, and in God. This is the gift of faith and it can truly carry us through sorrowful times," he said.
And I believe him.
So, in honor of my niece's friend, I will be sure to commit no less than 19 random acts of kindness in the coming days.
It's the least I can do to celebrate the life of Caitlin, a bright, funny, giving girl with an infectious laugh and beautiful smile. I know someday, we'll meet again.
I'll pray for you and your family always - and forget you never, Caitlin. Love, "Aunt Patty."
Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist and believer in the joy of heaven. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.