2 boys. not our boys. but they could easily be our boys.
in orvieto, italy last week, D. & i stumbled into a church as we are wont to do while meandering around italy. we wander in our separate ways, breathing the quiet in prayer, begging, thanking. i usually light candles for various intentions. in that darkened church my eye was caught by something i had not encountered previously in italy...a photograph of a young man & a guest book for his forthcoming funeral. immediately there was a lump in my throat. he was young~ late teens or early twenties. my gut said "no" but the evidence & the reality whispered "yes." ok. i steered back in the direction of a side altar near the high altar where the candles could be lit, to offer prayers for his soul & his family. as my eyes adjusted, i realized that the young man's coffin was resting in front of the high altar. alone. i was undone by this memento mori, knowing that orvieto has stuck with me in a profound way from this defining moment. candles lit, prayers offered, i stumbled out into the light that was both welcome & harsh, thinking on death & not without hope.
fast-forward to yesterday. my early morning errands included a stop at the bank machine before daily Mass. at that hour the bank is not open, but it is not unusual to find another car or two there for the same reason i was there. there was a car in the lot, but oddly, no one at either bank machine making a transaction. my first impulse was to circle out of the lot & return at a later hour when the bank would be open, but for some reason, i did not. nudged on, i pulled up to the bank machine directly beside the suspicious car. my heart went to my throat at the sight...a young man was sleeping in the front seat & did not stir at my arrival. in the back seat of his car seemed to be all the possessions he owned, clean & rather neatly arranged. he, too, seemed clean & dressed just as any other young man in a crowd of late teens or early twenties. the car was not a newer model but it was in decent shape.
were i to see any pieces of this total picture by themselves...the boy, his belongings, the car...they likely would not catch my eye at all. they were ordinary. but together... i looked for a long moment, wondering what brought him to this. wondering if he had someone missing him, if he had a place for a soft landing. wondering if his mother ached to know where he was in that moment, remembering the days she rocked him to sleep in a loving, safe home & kissed his forehead goodnight. these and a million more thoughts broke my heart. i was tempted to tap on the window & offer to buy him something to eat, to take him to Mass with me. but i didn't. the same thing the urged me into the parking spot beside him held me back from doing more. so i did my banking & returned to the car, taking one last look at him. i knew in that moment that this boy would be in my prayers for a very long time.