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"When you feel like you don't belong somewhere, it doesn't mean that you're not supposed to be there"

alec vanderboom

I watched the "cool parents" of my kid's soccer team fall apart this morning. The Mom of the super star of our Under 8 soccer team died of leukemia on Thursday. Before Friday, I'm not sure that anyone on the team knew who she was, or that she was sick. The lone father in attendance during our Fall soccer games seemed like just another product of a divorced family. (Man, does it suck to judge!)

Most of the parents were horribly uncomfortable with sudden appearance of death on our kids soccer team. We got an email saying that if we told our kids about Logan's Mom's death, then it was important for the kids not to mention it at practice. Someone made our team armbands that were orange, not black.I asked Alex about it before the game and found out the coaches had passed out orange armbands for the team to wear without any instructions that orange is a symbol for leukemia patients, or why this was suddenly important for our team. Then the coaches had an uncomfortable meeting with the parents post-game where we decided to collect money to send flowers to the house.

Because I'm a foolish Carmelite, I took my whole family to the viewing today. The funeral home was a 2 hour drive from our house. All during the trip I worried about what I would say to the widower, or how my six year old son (a man not famous for his spirituality or his tact) would react to the viewing.

Why do I worry?

We got to the viewing and knelt uncomfortably down as a family to say a Hail Mary and an Our Father. My husband looked up and noticed that their was a crucifix above the coffin. "She was a Catholic!" he whispered to me.

After our prayers, we found Logan to give our condolences. My husband introduced Alex as a member of his soccer team.

Logan, said "I remember you!" with his face lit up with a huge smile for Alex. Then he asked a surprising follow-up, "Do you want some candy?"

A relative had sent a funeral wreath filled with tiny whopper candies all pinned out on an ivy wreath--a totally unique floral arrangement.

Logan went up to the wreath and pulled off a bag of candy for Alex. Then he got candy for Hannah and Maria.

These four kids hung out in total normalacy inches from his mother's open coffin. They munched on candy. They joked. They make those little twitches and jumps that only little kids can make. It was such a moment of grace, of connection, and of hope. I couldn't believe that my kids were the ones who could gracefully walk into a funeral parlor and offer friendship to a six year old kid who had just lost his Mother.

(Wow! When Jesus says "I will comfort the sorrowful," He really keeps his word!)

Later, Jon got to talk to the husband. He found out that the Mom had made a strong friendship with a priest during the last stage of her illness. The funeral was held so far from their home town because they wanted to have the funeral services within the parish boundaries of this priest. My Jon said "you made the right decision."

I found out today, that my life has no accidents. I thought we were the odd fish on the soccer team. Honestly, I really wanted us to drop out. I felt uncomfortable with the other parents, tired from pregnancy, and my kid is the one watching cloud formations while everyone else is running after the ball.

Yet this was all a part of God's plan all along.

I also found out that there are no strangers inside of a funeral home. We don't need a long history or deep connection to be instruments of God's grace. We just need to be willing to be his servants to someone in need.

Please pray for the soul of Tara Semak and for her husband Pete and her wonderful sons Dustin and Logan.

Mother Mary, pray for Tara. Blessed John Paul the II, please comfort a fellow soccer lover and motherless child named Logan.