Crossing Lives

I met Phyllis not too long after I got married 38 years ago. We went to the same women’s retreats a couple of times and went to a couple of the same churches. She said at one time that our paths would always cross. We eventually ended up working at the same place, Denver Seminary. Out of all our conversations, I remember one particular one, probably about 14 or 15 years ago. We were talking about our sons, hers dying of leukemia, mine dealing with blindness and autism. She said a surprising thing to me. She told me that she would sometimes look at her son Keith and think that at least she didn’t have to deal with what I was dealing with, the daily struggle and the knowledge that I would live with this for the rest of my life. I told her how surprised I was, because I had thought the same thing, that at least I didn’t have to deal with what she was dealing with. As long as there is life, there is hope.

The amazing thing, the miracle, is that Keith got better and lived a normal life for the past seven years. He then was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. When I heard that the first time, it was a true WTF moment. Talk about not fair. Keith had already had his “bad thing” and it feels like it should have inoculated him and his family from anything else bad happening. But we know that life isn’t like that.

Keith lost his battle with cancer on September 21. And I think about Phyllis, and I think about my son who even now I can hear him playing with his Legos in his room. I still think I have the better deal. And I’ll give Josh an extra hard hug tonight when I put him to bed.

I’m not Catholic but sometimes I have prayed the Rosary, and I often say the Ave Maria, because I feel a connection with Mary the Mother of Jesus. She knew what it meant to watch her Son suffer. I know the same. So does Phyllis. And so I offer the prayer of intercession on behalf of Phyllis and of Keith’s family.

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

If you are interested in making a tribute donation, you can do so here.


While this may not make tragedy more understandable (who can really understand??), it does make real the words “God with us.”


Blood.  The summer has been bathed in it.  On July 20, James Holmes opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora Colorado killing twelve and wounding fifty-nine others.  On August 5, Wade Michael Page opened fire at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin killing six people and wounding four.  On Friday August 24, Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to 21 years after being declared sane.  In 2011 Breivik killed 77 people.  How can five brief sentences convey the reality of the deaths of ninety-five people? To say these events defy explanation is…well even the word understatement fails.  Does this leave you feeling numb?  Does it leave an ache in the center of your being?  Does it force you to wonder or even scream “where were you God?”

Where was God?  It’s the default question we ask we confronted with tragedy, pain, or grief.  When someone like James Holmes foists upon us the…

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