So, today was the 3rd anniversary of Johnny's death. The first year after he died we all got together on this day. Last year, half of us did. This year, I was the lone family memeber kneeling at his grave (a really powerful prayer time for me, though -so I was very thankful for the solitude.) Not a day goes by that I don't think of Johnny -and I'm sure that is true of most of my brothers and sisters too. Does the fact that the 'bleeding' of our hearts has stopped mean that we have forgotten? Absolutely not. Johnny has just become a normal part of our lives -not at his gravesite or in his old room -but in our everyday lives and homes. He is a normal part of our lives in a new way than he was before -he is always present to us from heaven. At least that is how it is for me.
Jesus is our model for suffering love. And although His wounds were still present after His resurrection -they were transformed. And I think that is what Jesus has been doing in each of our souls the past 3 years. Jesus allowed Johnny's death to wound each of us in a deep and unique way in order to open us up to His Love in a new way. He allowed our hearts to be 'cut' so that He could enter and transform us. Think about how a normal wound to our body heals -over time new cells form to close it and if it is deep enough a scar is left. In the same way, over the past 3 years Jesus has been doing a 'new work' in each of our hearts in order to help heal our wounds from Johnny's death. These wounds were like new, empty cups created within us where Jesus could come and pour out His transforming Love. I like the 'scar' left on my heart over Johnny's death. It keeps him close to me. And it keeps me close to Jesus. It is a good reminder to me that this life is nothing compared to the next. It reminds me that relationships and human love in this world are nothing compared to the sort of Love we will all share in the next world. This 'wound' to our family (of Johnny's death) has suddenly, quietly, hiddenly, become a grace.
I do not cry anymore when I think of Johnny -I don't feel guilty that my things are now moved into his old room, or that I left the cemetary singing a 'Thank you, Jesus' song I learned in Nigeria. Jesus drew Johnny to Himself so that He could draw us to Himself through his death -and because Johnny is closer to Jesus now, we are closer to Him. This morning at Mass I was talking to Claudia Nolan about her first Communion (Claudia was Johnny's only godchild). She said that she knew when she receives Jesus into her heart on May 4th, she not only will be closer to Jesus than she has ever been before -but she also will be closer to 'Uncle Johnny' who is with Jesus. That is true for all of us. Death is a difficult thing at the moment it happens for the people close to the one who died. Death is a difficult thing for one's emotions and mind when we remember that person and we feel an emptiness. But death -not only for the soul of the person who died, but also for those who he leaves behind -is always a beautiful opportunity of joy for one's heart and soul. It is an opportunity for us to take our wounds to Jesus and allow Him -the Healer -to touch us and change us. And as the person we love is drawn into heaven (through God's mercy and through our prayer for him), so are we drawn into God's embrace in a way, along with him. We are closer to God because of that person's life and death. And we also are closer to that person as we come closer to God (since they are together).
I am sure everyone remembered Johnny in some way today. It is easier for most to smile when they think of him now, then it is to cry. For he was a really funny guy and we know that all the sufferings and wounds he endured on earth are GONE -resurrected -he is truly happy. And so, as good Christians, we should be happy for him and with him. If he draws our hearts to think of eternity with God, then it is like he opened a window to heaven so we could get a whiff of 'fresh air'. And so we should be thankful for his life today, as we are thankful for his death. "The good Lord gives and the good Lord takes away -BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!"
I do want to encourage those of us in need of extra help to remember to ask Johnny's intercession and prayers. In Poland so many people pray through his intercession (especially for really practical things) and they say that they are NEVER denied immediate (and sometimes really miraculous) help. He really is still with us. Just last week Bobby called me to ask for prayer because he could not find some papers that were very important. I asked Jesus to help me help Bobby find them. I opened my Bible to a page where Johnny's name and death date were written. I asked his help for Bobby and then called Bobby back (this all took about 5 minutes tops). Bobby had already found the papers he had been searching a long time to find. Just another witness as to how close Johnny still is to us all.
We love you Bro, and we thank Jesus for keeping you so close to us. Really, how far away is heaven? Not that far... just a prayer away.
John Martin Maximillian Kloska
December 28, 1985-April 20, 2005