In the past two days, students at Our Lady of Grace School have experienced tremendous loss. Yesterday, the mother of two young girls with whom I have become close passed away after a battle with terminal cancer. Their father had died a few years ago and in an instant these girls and their older brother became ‘true orphans.’ Upon learning of their mother’s passing from a school teacher and being brought to visit their mother’s body, the children returned to class and resumed their regular schedule fighting through their tears and heartbreak. When I learned of this I was shocked, almost enraged.
At home, if someone were to lost a parent or close family member, he or she remained at home for a few days or maybe weeks until she was emotionally ready to return to school. Even upon her return, the child received emotional and academic support from teachers, classmates, parish priests etc. But these children have no home in which to seek comfort, peace or stability in their time of grieving. Their only home is at Our Lady of Grace School, their only family is comprised of the many children who make up Fr. Tom’s Kids and their only adult role models are the faculty and staff of Our Lady of Grace and Fr. Tom’s Kids.
This morning, as we were celebrating Mass during an unusual morning rain shower, we lost electricity. The room was dark except for the dim light produced by two candles on the altar. Despite the darkness, though, the Homily went on, Mass went on, and today, those three orphaned children woke up at 4:00 a.m. for personal study, went to Rosary at 6:10 a.m. and will continue on with the rest of their school day, attending classes and finishing assignments. In Kenya, Life Goes On. The events of yesterday and today were more enlightening than some entire years of my life. They made me realize, in a very tangible way, that somewhere in the world, someone’s life is changing completely at almost every instant of every day.
Sometimes, our lives change for for the good: sometimes healthy babies are born to loving parents, sometimes people get married to their soulmate, sometimes a parent receives a promotion, sometimes a child graduates from college, but sometimes children become orphans. Sometimes children are hugged and told they are loved before getting tucked into bed at night, but sometimes there is no one to hug them, no one to love them, no one to tuck them in. This is why the ministry of Fr. Tom’s Kids is so incredibly important- it attempts to provide parental love, support and guidance to children who have nowhere else to turn; children who have no option of foster care or adoption, children who despite these challenges possess determination to keep living and keep loving.
Yesterday, the reality of the lives of those three children changed in an instant, but life is going on, all over the world .