Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In the Company of Good Friends

It's now been over a month since Brian's passing, and it feels like yesterday that I received the awful news. I've been so tied up with other commitments (my new summer work) that I've been unable to post further on that faithful week after his death, how his family and we, his friends, came together to commemorate, to remember, and to say goodbye to Brian.

I had left off in a previous post right before Wednesday and Brian's visitation. Tuesday was the last day of classes for the semester so things were beginning to finish up things for the summer. Wednesday and Thursday were "dead days" that were meant to be preparation for the finals that began that Friday. For me, there were other preparations and things I had to confront before even considering exams. By midweek I was beside myself, in the complete sense. His visitation was Wednesday evening at a funeral home in Bryan. Just the trip going there was surreal. I had never encountered such a scenario, of a friend dead, and then going to a funeral home for a visitation. When I arrived at the funeral home I was rather nervous in entering...not because it was a funeral home but because I knew so few others connected to Brian (such as from his church or his family). I had never met any of them, so trying to find someone I knew made me nervous. I found the TAGD group soon enough and was greeted by some others after entering, which eased my nerves and calmed my heart some. We even got to speak with Brian's father and stepmother some, and one of his uncle's spoke with us trying to find out more on how much Brian was involved with TAGD and game developing. His uncle's visit with us was a really special moment to me because it helped cement a connection with Brian's family I didn't have before. I also had a chance to see some of Brian's childhood pictures and things back from his home in Enterprise, Alabama. Very special, indeed.

Thursday was the day of Brian's funeral at Aldersgate Methodist Church. I did little before then that day. I came to the church a little behind schedule so I came in right before the service began. I remember Brian's eulogy given by his uncle (the same one that spoke with us the night before). He highlighted a post Brian wrote in his online journal, " If it's going to happen, it will happen now," where Brian spoke about becoming more committed to living his life for Christ. The entire service was moving--the hymns, the prayers, the eulogy, the community gathered together to remember Brian--but what moved me most of all were Brian's words read to us. That was the greatest reminder to me of how good Brian truly was. At that moment, I was proud to have known Brian and to have had him as a friend.

When we from TAGD were gathered that night before first at the funeral home, with Jacob Foshee and his friend Davanci all the way from Houston, to remember Brian with all of us, I felt a completeness to the loss of Brian. I knew in my heart right there that Brian would've have wanted this, he would've loved this...a TAGD gathering, something he wouldn't miss for anything! I know I felt a hole in the group there that night, I felt Brian's absence there when we were of the last to leave the funeral home. But I knew he was among us in our hearts, like how Christ is among us each day. For God is love, and love knows no boundaries.

The dinner we shared that night after leaving the visitation was a special one. We sat together not sorrowful because of Brian's death. Instead, we were growing in friendship with one another and having fun, something Brian would assuredly be a part of if he were still here. But, you see, that's what has been the silver lining in this tragic loss of Brian. Friendships have been renewed, and they have grown. In the greatest hardships come the greatest friendships, and so amongst death, life does go on.

I am reminded of the homily Father Kurt gave in the daily mass I attended the Monday after Brian's death, on the day I first knew. When I heard the homily I heard God speaking directly to my heart...I felt a direct connection to Christ. Father Curt spoke on the term "Paraclete", which is another way of saying the Holy Spirit. Father Curt spoke on how we should be the Holy Spirit through our actions and words. The Holy Spirit works through each of us to reach each other. In hearing the association of becoming a sort of "Paraclete" for another and for Christ's work in the world, illumination of Brian's death became clearer. Christ, with the Holy Spirit, was truly working through him. I remember seeing him tirelessly giving of himself for the group and being so passionate in all aspects of his life. After all, that's what friends are for: raising each other up in Christ. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Recalling a Difficult Week

This week has been such an upside down kind of week. Let me allow to recap the events so you, my dear reader, can be more in tune with what has transpired over this tumultuous week. Of course, this will be from my perspective, since this is my blog after all!

The week actually began on the previous Friday, April 29th. It was the end of the month, and the beginning of a weekend I was longing for almost a month. Mid-month I was elected recorder of my local Knights of Columbus council, Council 10624, out of wonderful College Station, Texas.

I was elected to the position of Recorder for this next fraternal year, and the officer installation and our first annual end-of-the-year banquet was that Saturday night, April 30th. So, it was Friday and it was the end of the last full week of classes for the spring semester. Laura, a friend of mine, really pushed me, after daily Mass the day before, to go to the Confirmation Mass that was this Friday. Now, I went to the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Mary's last year (the whole 2 1/2 hour affair) and was both exhausted and excited after it. After all new Catholics and Christians should get any Catholic in a good mood I'd say. So, when I was asked by Laura to come to the Confirmation Mass, I stopped to weigh my priorities of the day. For starters, I was free that evening since I finish work at 5 pm every week, I wasn't going out of town (since we had the officer installation and banquet that Saturday), and our bishop of the Diocese of Austin—Bishop Gregory Aymond would be celebrating the Mass. This was of special note to me since Bishop Aymond and I are alumni of the same high school. He graduated there back when it was Cor Jesu and I graduated more recently as it is now, Brother Martin, all the way back in my hometown of New Orleans. (In 1969 Cor Jesu and another school, St. Aloysius, merged into one on Cor Jesu's Elysian Fields Ave. campus to form Brother Martin High School.) This was hands down enough of a reason for me to go, so I planned to go to the Mass.

This is where my week began.

So I am running a little behind (it's 5:25) by the time I get to St. Mary's parking lot adjacent to the church. I land into my parking spot there, with the radio still playing. It's at that time, about 5:28, that the radio announcer mentions that a car accident put Highway 6 (our area's main North/South artery to Waco and Houston) at a complete halt. At point, I remember getting a chill because he said that the accident was going southbound. Now you must know that this is my regular route to down to Houston (which I've done on quite a regular frequency this past semester) to visit my grandmother down there. In fact, I had just made a trip down the week before to pick up a few things. Even more so, I meant to go this weekend, but because the banquet about a month prior, was moved back a week, from April 23rd to April 30th, I moved up my visit by a week. I only said to myself then, "Thank God I wasn't going down to Houston now," and thought nothing more of the event that evening or the rest of the weekend.

The Banquet was a wonderful event, living up to all my expectations and more, as did the Confirmation Mass Friday evening. Turns out my friend that I first met at our Fish Camp the summer before our freshman year was getting confirmed that evening, so there was a reason to go after all! I was ecstatic and practically beaming with joy for my friend’s further growth in her faith. I also got to converse with Bishop Aymond after the Mass and have a great faith discussion with a permanent parishioner who frequents daily Mass. I've seen her at each one...it's amazing! So Friday was an overall good day...from my perspective then, at least.

So Sunday went well, 11 am Mass was wonderful as always with my cousin playing the piano with the choir. I was in upbeat mood since the weekend was going so smoothly, and I was glad for (what I then thought would be) a productive week ahead. The going away party for our Father Mike was after the Mass, so we had a great time remembering his hard work at St. Mary's and even got the lagniappe (extra, for all you non-New Orleanians out there) pleasure of seeing our Father Keith (who, by the way, is a Longhorn) sing A&M's school song, The Spirit of Aggieland, even doing the Aggie yell afterward! Great stuff...I'm sure we'll have pictures of that one day. Father Mike was made an honorary Aggie prior to the song, by the Association of Former Students, so that was the impetus of singing it. Once again, great stuff.

So, I went about my business Sunday evening preparing for the Dead Week we had ahead before finals. With my biological clock completely out of whack I was up until well after 3 am. I've done this many times before this semester for no apparent reason, particularly about the time of the Student Body President elections. So from prior knowledge I knew that the Battalion posts the online version of the day's paper at that time (after 3 am), kind of like Aaron Brown reading the "morning headlines" on CNN's NewsNight. Anyhow, Monday morning was no exception for me. I was curious to find out if there were any replies to my or two other of the Catholic Mail Call letters. To my surprise, there weren't any, but of course...plain on the home page I saw the headline: "Student killed in head-on collision." Well, that piqued my interest, since I remembered the accident mentioned Friday evening. Oh, was the news a doozy. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was in total shock and disbelief.

I knew deep down that it was in fact Brian...I could see it clear as day. There were only two Nadeaus at A&M so it was him, but I couldn't accept it then. I freaked out, saying it couldn't be...but it was. I then went on a search to find anything to grasp on that he left on the Internet, and so I found his blog and posted my thoughts to him, which I also put here on my blog...in a feeble attempt to comfort myself.

Anyway, I knew him from TAGD (Texas Aggie Game Developers) from on campus. I hadn't made a single meeting the entire semester up to that Monday because of calculus reviews (and Knights of Columbus officer meetings) at the same time. However, I had to confirm the news...I knew I must, so I did it the only way I knew how. I looked up Luke's, this year's TAGD president's, phone number before going to bed and then begrudgingly went to sleep, although not soundly at all.

I gave Luke a call the next morning as I came out of my last geology class. He seemed at first rather surprised to hear from me but confirmed the news to me and confirmed that they were indeed having a meeting that night. I wasn't sure since things do start to wind down with organizations around exam time. What I wanted to hear the most, the times of the visitation and funeral, he told me were to be announced at the meeting that night. So, I dropped all my other plans, reworked my work schedule for that day, and headed back to my dorm. There I wept...wept as much as I did when I got the news of my great-grandfather's passing over 4 years ago. I knew that what could best help me at the time were two things: Church and friends. Luckily I was able to make it to Mass that evening and to the TAGD meeting where we had a remembrance, all of which helped my spirits greatly.

It was at then that I fell into a deep depression. It wasn't the fact that Brian died that I was so depressed about nor was it the way he died. It was the length of his life and his strong faith in Christ. I felt like such a great life was ended too soon, snuffed out before he could do so much more good in the world. I remembered how much he did the previous summer in mission work in Japan, which he loved doing so much. I was heartbroken at the loss, and what his family must have been going through. I then felt a case of "what if," since I could've been traveling the same road then if it weren't for the change of date for the KofC Banquet. That spiraled into contemplating my own demise and its aftermath. What kind of world would I leave behind? How would my family cope with losing me? The questions continued to rack my head the rest of Monday, then into Tuesday, and still continue only a little still today. Maybe, in hindsight, this has all given me a stronger feeling of morality and a greater appreciation for my relationships, with family and friends, than I had before. Monday though was my darkest day, but the week as a whole was a roller coaster altogether.

More on that in a future post.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Friends in Christ

I know now, after going through what myself and a number of friends of mine have gone through this past week with the death of Brian Nadeau, that my false assumption, which I have previously held, of the Catholic Church as the sole way to be united with Christ in Heaven was a false one. I have seen the changes Brian has made in others lives, his strong convictions, his love for and of the Lord. The sight and experience of his funeral at Aldersgate today was a moving one, the reminiscing of his passions, of his joys, of his pains, and of his love. I found a new respect for him as a person, as for those Christians who do not share the exact same beliefs but share his or her love of (and faith in) the Lord and are in the service of the Lord. It is the devotion to the Lord that I see present, and I cannot bash another brother in Christ for not seeing his interpretation the same as mine. I still hold true my faith, the Catholic Faith, to be the one true faith, but I cannot forget my fellow brothers in Christ and their service for the Lord. I will leave the details to the Lord and worry for my own soul from this day forward. All the while I will continue try to let God work His will through me.

The loss of Brian hasn't been something easy to come to grip with because it was like yesterday that I last spoke with him. Reading back on his LiveJournal posts has given me new insight into his life and greater appreciation for his part in mine. We were read a passage from his journal at his funeral by a family member. It was read as follows:

I've learned how to win at Generals and I've learned how to win at things like WoW. It took lots of failure, but eventually my talent and fighting spirit were replaced by talent, fighting spirit, and skill. You can't just will your way to the top because you want to win real bad. Everyone who wants to get to the top has that. You have to have the skills to get it done and the fighting spirit will propel that into victory. Ryoma Echizen proved that when he took town Jin Akutsu in the Regional Tournament. Akutsu sweats natural talent and ability, but not the will to win. Echizen did. However, if one of them wasn't truly skilled at what they did, it never would have been a contest.

In order to be a champion, it takes skill. It takes an indomitable fighting spirit. It also takes something else.

Scripture and revelation from God has given me the answer. Look at the two major personalities that define me. What makes Ranma Saotome the unstoppable fighting force that he is? It's his devotion to martial arts. That's all he does. He never slacks off on his training and he always goes at it win the intensity of a winner. What makes Ryoma Echizen the "Prince of Tennis"? Yeah, he's got talent. Yeah, he's got the "samurai spirit" to win... but it's his devotion to tennis that makes him the best. He plays all the time and improves. It's what he devotes his life to.

Chapter 11 in the book of Isaiah talks about one whom the Spirit of the Lord rests upon. Verse five says "Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist." Righteousness is an important thing that sums up several character traits we should aim for, but think about this "garment." Righteousness is held up by faithfulness! Being faithful to something is what keeps it held up. It's what brings everything together. That's the key! Right now, my commitments are too scattered and spread out to really be effective. If I want to be a winner, a champion that really makes a difference in the world, I'm going to have to pick some things and commit my life to them. That starts with a commitment (being faithful to) God, since His will is what matters the most anyway. But through that, what else? I can no longer say that since my life is devoted to God that all the things I choose to do - no matter how many things it is or what they are (which is the way I've been acting) - I will excel at since I'm doing it for God. That clearly is not the case. I'm going to have to chose a select few things and truly devote myself to them -- for myself and for others, but most importantly for the Glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

So the question then becomes... what will those things be?

You can read the entire post at his LiveJournal: http://www.livejournal.com/users/xenosiggy/8135.html.

He shared many of the same difficulties I've experienced in Computer Science, namely the Calculus woes, and so I feel to have a greater connection to his life, if only by mere coincidence, if not more. I feel the connection to his reference of Isaiah 11:5, which is reminded me of my earlier blog post on living in the light. The verse especially Ephesians 6:14, "So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate." For righteousness and truth, the truth that Christ is our Lord and Savior, go hand in hand as does faithfulness. So for whatever caused me to connect Isaiah 11:5 and Ephesians 6:14, I am thankful to the Lord for.

Finally, I must track back to Ephesians 6, for which I have reread today. The final verse of the chapter, Ephesians 6:24, speaks out to me on how we all should approach our brothers in Christ, wherever they may be:
"Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in immortality."

This verse gives me comfort that he is with the Lord because I have seen Brian have such a love for Christ with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind. For this reason alone do I know that grace has been given to him. And for this I am comforted in knowing this.

Life is such a journey, with so many trials but so many gifts along the way. For this I pray to the Lord to give me strength along the way, so that I may better serve Him.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Saying Goodbye


Goodbye. I know that we haven't seen much of each other this past semester, but the news has hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. It is sad how things can be taken for granted.

All I can think now is the brevity that our lives can be. 19 years never seems to be enough time. It is always a wonder how some of us can go on to live for decades, and our friends aren't given even 20 years. My deepest sympathies to your family in this hard time. I know you are in a better place. Your memory will not be forgotten. God bless you, Brian.

Forever a Friend in Christ,