Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I must be feeling better. I’ve been listening to Prefab Sprout. Headed by singer-songwriter, Paddy McAloon, the group has been around since the ‘80s. They make winsome music, the kind that makes you appreciate the miracle of life. In fact, that is the title of one of their songs: “Life’s A Miracle”

Tell someone you love them, there's always a way

And if the dead could speak I know what they would say

To you and me, don't waste another day

Show someone you love them, don't be scared to care

And if they fall into your arms you'll be surprised to find

The weight that you can bear, yeah, because

Life's a miracle

Paddy’s been dealing with some serious health issues lately, but he still writes beautiful, uplifting music.

One of my favorite P.S. songs is called “One of the Broken.” Paddy puts words in God’s mouth. God acknowledges the communication problem between him and his children. He advises those who want to connect with him to reach out to the broken, hurting people in the world. It’s a song inspired by Jesus’ identity with the least among us. A lesson in kindness. A lesson in love:

Sing me no deep hymn of devotion

Sing me no slow sweet melody

Sing it to one, one of the broken

And brother you're singing, singing to me

I never wanted to be the object of anyone’s pity, but I can’t deny that I am one of the broken. Countless times over the last 3-1/2 years I have heard words to the effect: “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” I often sense in these kind sentiments a note of regret. I understand. These good people want to do more - and would if they could. But a tragedy like ours forces us to acknowledge that that we are powerless to fix some situations, some things are irreparable. There is no bringing Rachel back.

I collect quotes. My first room-mate in college had a deck of notecards on which he had written positive statements. He would review them religiously, sitting on the edge of his bed or at his desk. To be honest, at the time I judged him to be a little out of step with the rest of the world. I found a new room-mate as quickly as I could. I remember him now as a harmless, decent person. I wish I had been more like him.

Anyway, one of the quotes I came across lately is from Padre Pio. He said, “Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering.” My mother used to kiss my boo-boo’s when I was a little boy. Her kisses didn’t stop the bleeding or the heal the wounds, but somehow they made me feel better. Now I know why.

I have said before that Jill and I prayed faithfully for the welfare and safety of our children. It has been a monumental struggle to come to terms with the fact that we prayed for Rachel’s safety in the morning before we knew she was already dead and her broken body was lying in a morgue awaiting an autopsy. Since then, it has been a challenge to find a good enough reason to bother to pray.

But, even before Rachel was killed, she was gone. She had moved to Irvine to pursue her dream of becoming a forensic scientist. A few years earlier, we had moved her from her home in southern California to an out of the way country town in northern California. Rachel always made it clear that she was a “So-Cal Girl At Heart,” and would return as soon as it was in her power to do so. When the time came, we had to let her go.

How does love bridge the gap of miles or years? We called her. We texted her. We emailed her. We thought of her constantly - worried for her, wondered about her. We prayed for her. Nothing we could do seemed like enough. With love, isn’t that always the way?

Another quote I found recently has helped me gain some perspective. St. Teresa of Avila said, “Prayer is an act of love.” The Bible says that prayer is a waste of breath without love. But when it springs from “the will to love,” as St. Teresa says, the message gets through.

One of the writers of the Philokalia said, “Love is greater than prayer.” I still have no confidence in the ability of prayer to secure my requests, but one thing I can affirm: my prayers for Rachel each and every day of her life were an act of love. That makes me feel a little better. I did what I could do, even when what I did looked like nothing so much as nothing at all. Maybe compassionate thoughts and heartfelt prayers and other acts of love are useless. But so are many beautiful, precious things. God knows my heart and yours, and, if what the Bible says is true, Rachel now knows perfectly well how much I have always loved her - and always will.

Prefab Sprout has another song that has spoken to me lately called, “God Watch Over You.” Obviously, it is a prayer for God’s protection. At first, it raised my hackles, cynical as I have become of the utility of such prayers. But, when I listened closely, I discovered that Paddy subtly reminds us that God can answer this prayer in different ways. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We are never out of his care:

I pray that god protects you...

God watch over you

every minute, every moment

God watch over you

every minute, every moment

God watch over you (and if you fall)

May he stretch out his arm and catch you,

keep you from harm, or sweep you

into his palm...but...

God watch over you

God watch over you

Love is never wasted. The Bible says, “Love Never Fails.” I can’t stop thinking of Rachel because I still love her. I still pray that God is watching over her - it’s all I can do.

There is a door it may seem locked

But in a little while, don't be shocked

Above the noise, behind the glare

I know you're listening out there somewhere, somewhere

I can't wait to meet you there, somewhere

I can't wait to meet you there

“Doo-Wop In Harlem” by Prefab Sprout

1 comment:

Patty Elliott said...

Steve I think I can say I know how you feel. It seems ever since Eddy died I try to pray and the thought seems to feel like I am repelled against it.

I am not sure of what that is other than PTSD. Steve I never knew the Love of a Father so the whole Heavenly Father concept has been hard for me. As I read your posts and feel so greatly the Love that you have for Rachel and the pain that you feel in your separation I feel so strongly how lucky you and Rachel were to share such a love.

The love that you and Jill have for
Rachel and Erik has become the fibers of their hearts and minds. The separation and the pain you so express is to me just a possible glimpse of the Love God has for us and the shared pain he feels when we suffer in our separation from him. And also the suffering we experience in living out or through his divine will or providence.

Your Love for Rachel is not lost just feels like it can never be expressed because she is not here. She is Steve in the very place that you always prayed for her to be in the palm of his hand. And she went there with a very special gift the Love you and Jill showed her , taught her and showered her with from the depths of your hearts.

I hate that you all have to suffer through this loss, but I am prayerfully thankful for learning how great a Fathers love is,

It helps the world to know the depths of Love even as painful as it is. god knows our prayers whether we speak them or not.

Love Aunt Patty