“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 22:43

by Lisa DeRosa
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guest post by Bettina Schuller,

Not too many years ago, I was sitting in my usual meditation place, ready to practice Centering Prayer, when my daughter Sophia came in and said, “I’m leaving.” The words, “Bye, have fun!” were on my lips when I caught myself and stopped at “Bye…” Sophia was going to a memorial service for her 17-year old-friend and last year’s prom date, Pat.

Pat was hit by a car while crossing a street in St. Pete Beach. He and his friends had rented a room together in St. Pete Beach to celebrate the beginning of their last spring break in High School. His friends, who had been waiting for him at a restaurant across the street, saw his body lying in the street…

What parting words do you have for your daughter when she is going to a memorial service for a friend she sat next to in sixth period at school, who won’t be sitting there on Monday? How do you talk to your 17-year-old about the death of her friend? How do you bring God into this event? Where is God in the death of a young boy about to leave for college?

While Sophia was at the memorial service, I sat in silence and prayed and held all of the grieving kids and especially Pat’s parents up to God’s care… That was the only way I knew how to practice the presence of God at that moment and how to feel connected to a God who I know is loving.

I don’t like God’s timing and I don’t understand why a 17-year-old boy who has always been kind and considerate to everybody had to die. I don’t understand it but I know by faith that God is in all of life and God is also with us in death.

Although I know that God is in all of life and the Holy is in all events of life, can I see the death of a teenager as holy and see the presence of God in it? Definitely not!

I am not one of the people who could say to the parents that their son was “called to be back home with God” or that it was “his time to go home” or that “God is taking care of him.” I still question God and ask “WHY? Why God, why does a 17-year-old boy have to die?”

My friend Runelle’s daughter, Margaret, was murdered by Ted Bundy in 1978.

When I first met Runelle and she told me about her daughter’s death, I could not believe my ears when she said that God has blessed her with feeling no hatred toward the murderer of her daughter. When we met for lunch one day, I asked Runelle how she had kept her faith in God. “Jack [her husband] and I realized that there was no acceptable alternative than to go on with our lives. God’s grace, many prayers offered for us, and counseling gave us the strength to carry on; God was with us every moment.”

God was with us every moment, wrote a woman who lost her daughter to the cruelest murder I can imagine. Even after the tragic death of her daughter, Runelle kept her deep faith and knew God’s love and healing was present.

My friend Runelle died this past weekend and I know by faith that God’s healing has occurred. Runelle, her husband Jack and their daughter Margaret are in paradise together. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 22:43

Ann Douglas and her son Frederick John Cox in July 2001

My friend Ann’s son, Freddy, died at the age of 27 in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. His favorite quote was, “Do what you love; love what you do!” Though Freddy’s life was taken at a tragically young age, he spent his years truly living! He celebrated each day and turned adversity into opportunity for growth.

I was blessed to be part of Ann’s grieving and healing journey. Ann shared with me that she never looked at any images of 9-11 or at Ground Zero. When Ground Zero was completely cleared one year later, she went to New York to see where her son, whose first breath she witnessed, breathed his last breath. She created a foundation in his honor, and published the childhood story she told him as a boy, as a children’s book.

Ann says, “ I learned so many lessons and new ways to get closer to God, as I travel the road of grief and forgiveness. As for losing my son… I have no words. But today my best prayer is, ‘Dear God, show me what you want me to do, because I really want to do it. Amen.'”

Ann recorded a 5 min video to share her healing journey and to let you know that God is with you no matter what happens in life. Healing, even from the death of a beloved child, is possible with God! Please click on the link below to watch Ann tell her healing story:

(Please go to FredddyFrog.org  to learn more about Ann Douglas’ foundation.)
Rest in paradise, Pat, Freddy and Margaret, we love and miss you.
Today, I am meditating on what Mary might have felt on this Friday so many years ago when she watched her son die on the cross, and I am praying for all mothers who have lost their sons and daughters…

Bio for Bettina Schuller

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Bettina Schuller is a spiritual seeker on the journey into the heart of God and a joyful life! A certified spiritual director, certified life coach, teacher and author of This is Living! Practicing the Presence of God, her passion and purpose in life is accompanying spiritual seekers on their spiritual journey and sharing her love for Contemplative spirituality.

She loves to take care of this beautiful earth by recycling, composting and being conservative with our precious resources. Walking in the early morning and seeing the sun rise over Tampa Bay is part of her spiritual life and deep joy. Her relationship with God in nature and in the present moment is deepening with every day.
Originally from Germany, she moved to the United States at the age of 30, got married and raised two beautiful daughters. Bettina lived in several different states in the US and now lives in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida.

Photos by Ann Douglas, used with permission.


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2 comments

Herbert Orr March 31, 2021 - 3:31 pm

Fortunately, I have not had a relative die like this even when I have a son who battled cancer from 7 months old until his 40’s and has been healed perhaps for 10 yrs.
As a doctor I have seen deaths by illness or accident at an early age. Once, I had a boy die of asthma because I did not know he was this severe. I was so heart broken that I had a severe migraine headache later.
I still do not know why God let Job’s kids die! He was so devout that he fasted for them thinking that they may have sinned intentionally.
I do know that a couple yrs ago a man killed 8 Black people in a church in South Carolina. Quickly, they forgave him!
And yrs ago I read about a woman whose teen son was killed. Later, she visited the killer in jail and ended in considering him to be her son.

bettinaschuller April 1, 2021 - 9:21 am

Thank you for your sharing! The story of the mother who adopted the killer of her son,… I can’t imagine! I am awed!

I also heard of parents who forgave the murderer of their daughter in South Africa and they even helped him to start a business when he got out of jail. He is now doing incredible things in his life.
I can’t imagine, I could do that but I know it would be God’s way of healing!

Have a happy Easter!

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