Lessons in foregiveness
Below is an article from the Catholic Herald. It details how Peter and Cathy Read are dealing with the loss of their daughter Mary Karen. Mary Karen was killed at Virginia Tech on April 16th.
My wife and I and can understand a little of the anguish the Reads are going through at this moment for we've lost a child also. Their daughter Mary Karen was an incredible young lady who was taken away far too soon. Some of Mary's quotes and what her family is going through was part inspiration for a recent internet story I wrote. Don't take me to task for using that tragedy, my son's death was inspiration for another story I wrote. My stories were meant to honor the Read's loss and my son.
Today marks two months since Peter and Cathy last saw Mary Karen alive. Tomorrow is two months since her death. Trust me from personal experience, they feel these anniversaries. After losing Daniel, my wife and I counted similarly.
Dear wife both admire Peter and Cathy Read and feel their pain. There is nothing worse that can happen to a parent than to have your child die, alone be brutally murdered. That they can heal and learn from Mary Karen today and not be angry is just amazing. I wish I could set aside the anger I have over Daniel. God bless them and their entire family.
Linked to- Adam, Blue Star, Bright & Early, Bullwinkle, Cao, Jo, Leaning Straight Up, Maggie, Perri Nelson, Pet's Garden Blog, Pirate's Cove, Pursuing Holiness, Right Wing Nation, Samantha Burns, StikNstein, Third World County, Webloggin, Woman Honor Thyself, The World According to Carl,
Living passionately and spreading her own joy to those she encountered, 19-year-old Mary Karen Read aspired to be a teacher. Despite the fact that her life was taken from her in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, she has been posthumously teaching a relevant and perhaps even jarring lesson in the massacre’s aftermath — a lesson of forgiveness.
“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive,” Mary had written in a little red notebook discovered by her family in her dorm room at Virginia Tech the day after she was killed in her mid-morning French class in Norris Hall on April 16.
While forgiveness is probably not one of the first words that come to mind in the wake of the events that ended her life and the lives of 32 others, including the killer, it was what the college freshman believed.
Finding her hand-written quotes on forgiveness was not an eerie coincidence, but rather meaningful and providential, according to Peter and Cathy Read, Mary’s father and step-mother, who are parishioners of St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax. In fact, the quotes have brought healing to the family and many others present at Mary’s funeral, where Peter read them publicly. As wounds were still fresh and feelings of anger inevitably rising, Peter Read knew he had to share his daughter’s message with others.
The notebook was first discovered while Cathy collected Mary’s belongings from her dorm room the day after her murder. Filled with anguish and sorrow, she opened the first page of a small red notebook and found the names of Mary’s friends and their birthdays. She placed it alongside photo albums, picture frames and some other things in one of the milk crates she gave Mary before she went off to college.
It was not until the morning of Mary’s funeral one week later on April 24 that the contents of the notebook were discovered with the help of Mary’s younger brother, Brendan. Waving the notebook in the air, the 2-year-old announced his new possession, then dropped it on the floor and ran off. His timing was impeccable.
Seeing the notebook for the first time, Peter reached down to pick it up and began reading. He discovered that for three years Mary had been collecting quotes on various subjects of interest typical for a teenage girl including boys, love and friendships.
The last 10 quotes she wrote, however, caught her father’s attention. Dated Feb. 4, 2007 about two months before her life would be taken, Mary wrote about the profound importance of forgiveness.
“Forgiveness means letting go of the past.”
“Forgiving is not forgetting. It’s letting go of the hurt.”
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future,” were among some of her last entries.
“I just read them a couple of times and I realized this was something we needed to share,” said Peter, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. Although the family had initially decided not to have a eulogy, he felt compelled to share his daughter’s message at the funeral. “I knew it touched people by their reaction, but I didn’t know how deeply and widely ... they needed to hear that message from Mary,” he said.
Days following the funeral several people had told the Reads they had reconciled broken relationships after hearing Mary’s messages of forgiveness.
“This never should have happened,” said Cathy in the midst of sobs about the horrific massacre. “But God did things to cushion the blow and that helps us carry on,” said the Navy Commander, as she wiped her tears.
The message of forgiveness was no surprise to Mary’s family, who remembered her as a vibrant and bubbly teen who lived life to the fullest and was filled with love for Christ. She greeted all those whom she encountered with a smile, said Peter, who donned a Virginia Tech tie and Virginia Tech pin on his lapel in honor of the victims.
“It’s hard to find a picture of her not smiling,” he said. The teenager’s happy disposition was a constant in her life from the time she was a small child, her father said.
“Her grandmother used to call her ‘little Mary sunshine,” he continued. “She grew up that way and that continued to be the core of who she was. That’s how she dealt with the world,” he said of his daughter who played the clarinet in the Annandale Marching Atoms. She also had a gift of “bridging gaps between people.”
Although Mary had challenges in her life, Cathy said, she allowed those challenges to “pull her closer to God. She knew who she was and she knew her faith.” She was faith-filled and devout, words not often associated with teens. In an index card posted on her desk in her dorm room, Mary had written a Scripture passage and had incorporated her own name in it. It read, “For I know the plans I have for you (Mary),” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Cathy was distraught reading that passage and could not understand God’s will. What about Mary’s future? What about her plans? she wondered. She later realized that Mary “has a future in heaven. She went to heaven … God has plans for her.”
To confirm those sentiments, the family received a letter of consolation from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. According to the Reads, the letter stated, “Mary has not gone, but she’s gone ahead.”
Although he has Mary’s notebook of quotes practically memorized, Peter often goes through it.
“It helps me remember what matters, which direction Mary … would want us to go. It’s easy to continue to wallow in despair and be angry and let that turn to hate, which is so far from what we need,” he said. “A lot of people are responding out of fear … to seek vengeance and seek some kind of justice which isn’t tempered by mercy,” he continued. However, the notebook sheds light on a powerful way to find healing and comfort through forgiveness. Peter often contemplates the “Ave Maria” sung during Mary’s funeral and remembers that during Mary’s life he “would ask the Blessed Mother to watch over her.”
The pain and the hurt are still raw and deep. “Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand the depth,” Peter said. The family is “overwhelmed by grief and sadness … it’s worse than you can ever imagine,” he said.
Despite the suffering, it is their own faith, the prayers of family and friends and the little red notebook that has helped sustain the family, the Reads said. “I’m sure Mary is helping us too … She’s right up there close to God. She helps us all the time,” said Cathy.
Peter spoke of the great support from the clergy, especially from Father James Arsenault who was on campus within 10 minutes of knowing of the shootings. He was there, “taking care of families, taking care of students,” said Peter also noting the support of their pastor, Father James Barkett of St. Mary of Sorrows, in their time of grief.
“It’s not just Mary it’s all of them. They were living for bigger things. Now they are all doing that work as part of the communion of saints. It gives me comfort,” her father said. Even though they were brought together through a horrific school shooting, “God’s purpose finds its way through that.” Although, Peter admitted, “We won’t know until we’re there.”
Speaking about the victims, he noted the heroism of the professors who made sure their students were safe before going to find out what was happening. He said, “If you want to talk about imitation of Christ that’s where you look.”
Mary’s five younger siblings: Stephen, Patrick, Hannah, Brendan and Colleen, are all finding it difficult to fully grasp their big sister’s permanent physical absence. However, said Cathy, in their childlike faith, they all end their night prayers by saying, “good night Mary in heaven.”
Trying to better understand the location of heaven, Mary’s younger brother Patrick wondered if heaven is invisible. Finding satisfaction in the affirming answer from his mother, he understood why he could not see his sister anymore.
In an effort to lead people to Christ, Mary had joined Campus Crusade for Christ and applied to be a Bible Study leader on campus. It seems as though she has not allowed her death to stop her from doing the work she felt called to do. Through her message of forgiveness, she has already helped change many hearts and helped people forgive and let go of hurt. Recounting the words a good friend told him after Mary’s funeral, Peter said, “Mary’s work in Christ is just beginning.”
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