This week a young woman of fourteen years of age died in a car accident. She attended one of our Catholic Colleges.
I spoke with her Year 9 group yesterday morning, there were over 100 young people present. I started off by sharing some of my experiences of grief back to when I was about their age, when my young brother John died, and how I felt about his death.
We spoke about naming as best as we can what we feel about the death of a person we love, and to feel free to share what we feel in our grief with someone we trust.
I also shared that the day my brother died, my father got my siblings and I together and said ‘John is not nothing, he is with God now, we can talk to him as we do to the Saints’. That memory has remained clear to me over 55 years later!
The young people then were given a choice of either staying in the room where we were, or going to class for their normal programme. A number of counsellors were available to talk with the students. A group of young people gathered around me and started sharing memories about their friend. They cried and laughed and told stories. Feelings were shared, they were giving support to each other. This went on for quite some time. Then they went off to write messages for their friend!
I left to drive back from the school. I went away enriched by being part of walking with these young people and school staff in their journey of grief.
This young lady was fun-loving, life-loving. Obviously a much loved and liked young woman. Young people do not expect one of their own to die so young. We do not expect someone so young to die.
This accident happened on the weekend of Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit was alive and active with that school community. I am sure that the young people present in that room are on many different parts of their faith journey.
The caring, loving atmosphere that was present during those reflections was a manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The message of hope that Easter brings was underpinning a lot of what happened yesterday. Jesus called us to be like yeast that helps the dough to rise. Wherever we are, we are called to be a leaven of hope, witnesses to the Resurrection.