I had the hardest phone I have received on August 10th. My mom called me to tell me that my 20 year old cousin, Carter, had been found dead. He had been attacked and killed by his brother's pit bulls in their house. He was found by his grandfather, my Great Uncle, who basically raised Carter. There are more details, but its the most horrific story I have ever heard so I will spare you from the details.
Carter is my second cousin. His mom, Shelley, and my mom are first cousins. They live about an hour away from here. We were very close when we were younger, but had lost touch for a while. Carter had survived bone cancer and the past 9 months had been coming to my mom for physical therapy. I would go over to the house to visit with him and Shelley. We were reconnecting, which I was thankful for. My last memory of Carter was sitting in my mom's kitchen. He called my mom a "physical terrorist" and we were joking about that. He was such a funny kid.
The first time I met Carter...he is 4 days old.
The viewing was very difficult. The first person I saw was my Great Uncle Paul. I hugged him and he began to weep on my arms. He looked at me and told me that he had a huge hole inside his chest that will never be filled again. It was an open casket which was hard for me to handle. I lost it when I went to see Shelley. She asked me to go to the casket with her and say a prayer for her and Carter. Through the tears I was able to force out a prayer. My brother was very strong while we were in the funeral home, but once he and I got into my car he broke down. There was only one other time that I have seen him break down like that...when I told him our parents were getting a divorce. That night we went back to my mom's, had dinner and hang out as a family.
The next day was the funeral. When we got to the church I gave Shelley a hug and she wouldn't let go of my hand. She asked me to stay with her until the funeral started. Whenever anyone would walk in the room we were in she would introduce me to them and tell them that I find my strength in my Christian faith. The service was a full Catholic mass, which really frustrated me. It wasn't personal. Not a single personal story about Carter. The priest didn't know him at all. After the burial we headed to a friend of Shelley's who had a reception. It was a celebration of Carter's life.
Saturday Shelley and Uncle Paul came to my mom's house. We were all exhausted. Shelley came shopping with me, to keep her busy and we just hung out.
That weekend was so hard for me. I felt that I had to be strong for my family, especially Shelley. I was glad to be there for her but it took a lot out of me. I really wasn't able to grieve until after the weekend with the family, and even now over a month later I'm trying to figure it all out. I don't think I will ever have all the answers, but I know that God is good even though horrible tragedies like this happen.
The service being a full Catholic mass allowed me to share my thoughts about God. I was able to share with my mom and my brother how God is much more personal than how he was depicted in the mass. He would much rather hear our cries, hurts, and how we really feel instead of the memorized prayers that were said. My mom was more responsive than my brother and we discussed this for a while. Ironically the day of the funeral was the 13 years to the day that I had accepted Christ into my life, and I was able to share that with my mom. I don't know what she took from the conversation, but it was the longest discussion that I have had with my mom about my faith and a seed was planted.
RIP Carter Patrick Ridge Delaney...you will forever be loved and never be forgotten.