Glenwood Cemetery: A Post for All Souls Day

Catholics are especially called to pray for the dead on All Souls Day.  We are  encouraged to visit a cemetery to do so if possible.  So to commemorate this day, I am giving my readers a virtual visit to a graveyard.

I was delivering a meal to a new mother two years ago when I happened to pass Glenwood Cemetery on Central Avenue Pike in Powell, a very old cemetery located next to a somewhat newer church.  I came back later in the day to take pictures but new got around to writing a post.  I will come back later to give more detail about the cemetery and those who rest there, but for now, please just enjoy the pictures, read the names, and pray for the dead.

Some lived long lives, some barely lived at all.  Some lived and died long ago, some were buried recently.  Some are fondly remembered, some are forgotten.  God knows and loves them all.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.  Amen.

Guest Post: Honoring the Dignity of the Shortest Lives

The following is a guest post from my friend Heidi Indahl, and all photos are hers.  You can learn more about Heidi and her ministry at the end.

From Conception to Natural Death.

As Catholics, we use this phrase often.  Honoring the dignity of life from conception leads us to protest abortion laws and educate others on the nature of contraception.  The dignity of life at the point of natural death leads us to rally against assisted suicide laws and elder abuse.  To honor the space in between is to act for social justice and for the benefit of the marginalized.  Have you ever stopped to consider, however, what honoring the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death looks like when only a short time passes between the two?

Such are cases of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.

As a church, can we do a better job of including these smallest of persons (and as an extension, their families) into our work as a pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family people?

I think we can.

And more importantly, I believe we should.

I believe speaking for babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death is as hard as it is because the world has written these lives off as unpreventable losses . . . casualties of natural law and the fallen state.  Health care providers blur the line between early miscarriage and chemically induced abortion in their usage of terminology and procedures.  Celebrities grieve their miscarriage publicly one day and shout their abortion the next.  Family and friends tell women every single day to get over it because it just happens.  We all have a thousand messages a day telling us that the unborn baby is not a life that is important.  Even when we know the truth, the culture makes it easy . . . indeed, safer . . . to just stand by thinking, man, I hope that doesn’t happen to me!

And yet, it does happen.

Statistics of pregnancy and infant loss remain relatively unchanged.  We might not be able to change the frequency of this death through legislation or social justice action, but we can change the reality for a forgotten group of people inside our faith communities.

All of the unborn deserve dignity in their deaths.  They deserve to be properly buried if at all possible.  They deserve to be remembered in the prayers of the Church through mass and other available rites.  Their families need the same social support and comfort that we provide to all those grieving the loss of a beloved member of their family.  We are not just supposed to bury the dead, pray for the dead, and comfort the sorrowful when it is convenient, easy, and socially acceptable.  We are supposed to do it for every single human person that it is in our control to do so for.

I regularly speak with well-catechized, every-Sunday Catholics who have no idea that the Church provides a variety of funeral and naming rites, memorial suggestions, burial sites and more** for infants who pass away before or shortly after birth.   Women whose doctors say flush the fetus and they do, because no one has ever told them there is another option.

We can do better for our friends, our family, and ourselves.

A couple facing pregnancy and infant loss should never wonder inside the walls of the Catholic Church if their child’s life was valued and important.  It was.  Our whole pro-life argument is centered around the idea that the value of a life isn’t different because the life hasn’t existed as long or hasn’t produced the same contribution to society.  That doesn’t cease to be true because a person has passed away.

Every person matters from conception to natural death, because we know God formed human beings in His image and likeness.  Not because of their contribution to society.  Not because of their age, race, gender, or hair color.  Not because of the circumstances of their conception or death.  But because in them is the image and likeness of God himself.

And in them we can find God.

**Check with your local diocese for approved options.  If they don’t know, advocate for the next family to face this grave loss by helping get something in place!
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The mother of seven living children, three miscarried babies, a stillborn daughter, and a daughter who passed away shortly after birth, Heidi Indahl is the author of Blessed Is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss and 67 Ways to Do the Works of Mercy with Your Kids.   With a passion for sharing her pregnancy and infant loss journey, she does so in a way that can enrich the spiritual life of all women while also improving the way we think and talk about pregnancy and infant loss to promote a genuine culture of life, centered in the truths of our Catholic faith. 

For more information and additional pregnancy and infant loss resources, visit Heidi’s website.

 

Grieving Together: Review and Giveaway

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

Ten years ago, I lost our sixth and last baby in an early miscarriage, a baby who was planned, wanted, loved.  I’ve never written about it here.  In a very dark period of my life during which I lost first the baby, then my dream home, and finally almost every possession to fire, it was and remains by far the most painful of the losses I suffered.  I don’t like to talk about it and I’ve never wanted to write about it.

But I decided to share just a little today in the hopes of helping ease the burden of others who have lost babies.  There are so many of us, which is something I hadn’t realized until I miscarried and women started whispering words of commiseration: “It happened to me too.  It is hard but it will get better.”

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

When I was deep in grief–a longer period of time than I would have expected–when all I could do was lie in bed and sob while clutching a board book, the only thing I had bought for the baby, I felt very alone.  I looked online for resources, as one does these days, and found very little.  Eventually my husband and I conducted our own private little ceremony of praying together and naming the baby.  This did bring closure and healing to him, but my grieving process was very different.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

I wish that I’d had a copy of Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage.  This is the book you never want to need, but are so glad exists if you do.

Reading it even now, I felt affirmed, comforted, accompanied.

Laura and Franco Fanucci have authored a much-needed treasure, a companion and guide to grieving together as a couple.  Having experienced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss in their own marriage, they know intimately the grief of their readers.  That experience informs the book and their empathy is tangible.  Reading a book from people who have been in your situation is uniquely comforting.

I was impressed by the book’s breadth–it starts with the more practical aspects of miscarriage: what it is, what the experience might be like, considerations of medical treatment and funeral arrangements.  But this section is anything but clinical–it is still animated by Laura and Franco’s love and concern for their readers.  The next section covers grief, including the ways the grieving process may be different for each partner. This is followed by a section of practical suggestions of support from friends, family, the community, and the Church, making this a book that’s valuable to more than those who have suffered loss themselves.  Finally, the last section discusses life after miscarriage, whether your path includes adoption, another pregnancy, or no more babies.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

This is a Catholic book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, with Catholic prayers and rites, concrete ways parishes can help, saints to pray to for comfort and guidance, and more.  Other than our pastor’s sincere sympathy, my parish offered no support to us when we lost our baby, and I suspect that is pretty standard.  So this book would make a great gift for your pastor, along with a suggestion for a ministry to serve couples who have suffered miscarriage.  The Catholic Church is well known for concern over unborn babies threatened by abortion, and sponsors ministries for post-abortive women; her concern for babies lost involuntarily and their parents should be a natural outgrowth of these pro-life convictions.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

Grieving Together is available now on Amazon. (If you purchase it through links on the blog I will receive a small commission.)  I received the book free in exchange for my honest review.

Or you could enter the giveaway below and win a copy for yourself, a friend, or your parish.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Knoxville Fall Weekend

Remember summer?  It seems so long ago! Not the hot part–that lasted well into October here–but the not-being-in-school-and-having-daily-adventures part, which ended for us in early August.
We’ve had adventures since then, if not so many; what I lack is the time to share them here.  But since I have a spare moment, I’m going to write a few words about our lovely fall weekend.
I love fall so much that I really can’t stop smiling when I’m outside at this time of year! And I’m blessed to live in a part of the country that really knows how to put on a fall colors show.  Plus there is always something going on every weekend–multiple things, actually.
The Farmer’s Market will only be happening for a few more weeks, so Emily, Lorelei, and I headed downtown first thing on Saturday.   We hadn’t counted on the football game.  No, we didn’t get caught in traffic, but the normally free and plentiful downtown parking sported Event Pricing of $20.  This being Knoxville, that meant we had to park five whole blocks away and pay the meter about three dollars.  On the bright side, it was a beautiful day for a stroll.
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We had hot apple cider and pumpkin bread, enjoyed free entertainment provided by the various buskers, and bought eggs, cheese, apples, and some vegetables too.  Then we went to the 90th anniversary open house at the Tennessee Theatre.
I first set foot in the Tennessee Theatre in the 1970s, watching Gone with the Wind for the very first time, courtesy of my grandmother.  I was so lucky to be introduced to it in exactly the kind of place it was made to be seen! Knoxville’s “Grand Entertainment Palace” narrowly escaped demolition around 1980, and underwent extensive restoration and renovation in 2005.  It’s truly a treasure and it was such a treat to get to go backstage to explore the dressing rooms and the green room, to see the Mighty Wurlitzer organ up close, and have time to take all the pictures I wanted.
tennessee theatre interior
We dropped off Lorelei to volunteer for Feral Feline Friends of East Tennessee while we had coffee at my sister’s house, then went home and finished off our fall fun by taking the dog to the park.
Sunday morning Lorelei, William, and I went to Mass (John being under the weather).  Our parish has a rosary procession at the Catholic Cemetery on the first Sunday of November, and I wanted to go, but since circumstances did not permit, I decided to honor the dead in my own way.  After we ran errands and I returned the kids and the groceries to the house, I went off to explore a graveyard a bit closer to home.  A reader of one of my other cemetery posts alerted me to the existence of Pleasant Chapel Cemetery.
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I will write more about it later after I’ve had a chance to do a little research.  It has been way too long since I visited a new graveyard.  It was so peaceful there.  I wish I could share the smell of the leaves and the dirt and the sounds of chirping insects so you could experience the full atmosphere.  Anyway, I was happy to be there and to say a prayer for all the dead, who are unlikely to be Catholic but would surely appreciate the prayers anyway.
fall weekend 1.jpgThen I came home, made coffee, and sat on the front porch to start reading The Gift of Invitation, which I will be reviewing here this week.
It was a perfect fall weekend, and I am sad to see it end.  Now on to Election Day! (Yikes!)  How do you like to spend fall weekends?

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Unexpected Vacation: Harpers Ferry and the Baltimore Museum of Art

A little over a year ago, almost all our family (Jake excepted) took a short vacation together.  Going on vacation all in the same car was something we thought we’d sworn off forever, but this was a quickly planned journey.
John’s uncle was sick, and he wasn’t getting better.  John felt strongly that we needed to get up to Baltimore to see him, and soon.  It turns out he was right.
We had a wonderful couple of visits with Uncle Boh.  He’d been in the hospital right before we arrived, and had to go back almost right after we left, but he was home while we were there, and we were able to share meals and conversation.  It was truly a blessing, as he died less than two weeks later.
We couldn’t burden Uncle Boh and Aunt Barbara with our company the entire time we were in town, obviously.  So we took the opportunity to see some sights.
Even when you’ve spent as much time visiting one place (Baltimore) as we have, there’s always something new to explore if you look! We visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia one day and the Baltimore Museum of Art the other.
John and I had been to Harpers Ferry close to 30 years before, but I had only the vaguest memories of that rainy day visit.  We were blessed with incredible weather this trip, which made for some beautiful pictures that I am excited to share here.  Unfortunately, my waiting so long to memorialize this trip means that this post will be long on pictures and short on explanations.
If you’ve heard of Harpers Ferry at all, it will be in connection with John Brown and his failed attempt here to abolish slavery via armed insurrection.  You’ll learn plenty about those events if you visit.
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That, obviously, is the man himself!  Below you’ll see the building where he and his men holed up.
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Harpers Ferry is full of history with displays in several of the buildings on the main street.

There are also shops and restaurants to explore along the main thoroughfare and side streets.  Harpers Ferry is a stopping point along the Appalachian Trail so there is some serious hiking gear available.
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There’s an historic home to visit and a church (and the remains of a church) to investigate.
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Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, it’s also a place of extraordinary natural beauty.
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Looking back at this visit one year later, I still remember how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.  It was one of those perfect days.
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The next day we stuck closer to home base, and visited the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I can’t think why we’d never been there before.  It’s not because of the kids, because our kids like that kind of thing.
Here’s some of what we saw outside:
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Inside there were several sections to explore.  We saw sculptures and other three-dimensional expressions of art:
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The collection of the kind of paintings most people probably think of when they hear the words “art museum” was indeed impressive:
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But they also have interesting collections of art from Africa and Asia:
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They also had a great modern collection that we had to rush through because we were supposed to be somewhere.
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But that’s okay, because now I have a reason to go back there!
And don’t worry, we didn’t leave Baltimore without taking part in the essential summertime ritual:
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Out-of-Control Mothering: Putting It All in His Hands

Last night I told my daughter I felt like I had lived at least a month in the past week or so.  Have you ever felt that way?
Because of all that I and my family have been through in the last twelve days, I find myself starting at my computer screen this morning praying for inspiration for the blog post I should have had ready to go last night at the very latest–last night when I was completing a 550 mile drive back from an unexpected funeral.
Wait a minute . . . inspiration is coming . . .
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

Stanton Cemetery: An Unexpected Reward

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So you chose to walk around Mead’s Quarry and took the Tharp Trace Trail starting at the harder end.  Don’t feel bad because you are going to come upon a nice place to slow down and catch your breath not far from the end of the trail.  Stanton Cemetery is now maintained by Ijams, so not only is it in good shape, the answers to many would-be mysteries, like the one below, are explained on the information sign above.
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You can’t tell by looking at my pictures, but these two stones, while side by side as you would expect for a husband and wife, are facing the opposite directions.  Mr. and Mrs. Dempsey, therefore, are not really lying next to each other.  They sleep separately in death as they did in life, because they were divorced!
The day I visited this cemetery the leaves were just perfect for pictures.
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I imagine these folks are the ones whose name the cemetery bears:
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There were many sweet and touching baby headstones in here.  This hand-lettered one tugged at my heartstrings:
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This little girl’s old-fashioned names are back in style today:
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More babies:
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From graves marked only with rocks to others with unusual decorations and creative inscriptions, there is a lot of variety here.  Notice particularly the name and the date on the stone below–apparently the Simpsons had strong feelings about the coming Civil War.
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Something about this place–perhaps the secluded location–gives it an especially peaceful feeling.  Luckily, you don’t have to walk the hard part of Tharp Trace to get to it.  Mead’s Quarry is a hopping place these days, but you can reach this oasis of calm with only a few minutes’ walk.
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A Story Unfinished: A Review

A few months ago, I was honored to be chosen as an “Off the Shelf” reviewer for Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.  Y’all may have noticed by now that I love books.  So why wouldn’t I be thrilled to have the opportunity to read quality books (for free!) and talk about them here?  My first review follows.  My only compensation was the book itself, and the opinion is my own.
book cover
A Story Unfinished:  99 Days with Eliot is the story of every parent’s worse nightmare–the death of a child.  And even more tragically,  about knowing that death is inevitable before in the eyes of the world that child’s life has even begun.  It sounds sad, and of course it is.  But reading it will lift you up, not drag you down.
At a 30-week prenatal appointment, Matt and Ginny Mooney learned that their unborn child had a genetic condition–Trisomy 18–that would result in his death within hours or days of birth, if not before.  But baby Eliot defied the doctors’ expectations and lived for 99 precious days.  His parents chronicled his brief life in their blog, and those entries make up a portion of the book.
Knowing only that their time with their son would be brief, the Mooneys took full advantage of it, cherishing every moment.  The shortness of Eliot’s life seems like a tragedy, but having feared he would die in the womb, each of those 99 days felt like a gift to the Mooneys and was treated as such.
This isn’t your typical biography.  For one thing, you know in advance how the story ends–or at least how THIS part of the story ends.  You know going in that Eliot dies in 99 days.   And the story isn’t told in a linear fashion.  Matt mixes the story of Eliot’s life with flashbacks and previews, and adds his insights.  This was a little disconcerting to me at first because I didn’t expect it, but I think it works well for what he is hoping to accomplish with this book.
Because it’s ultimately not just the story of a baby’s life; it’s about what his parents took away from the experience, and what we all can learn from it.  Yet I don’t want to make it sound preachy, because it isn’t.  Matt believes in the goodness of God and the redemptive value of suffering, but he doesn’t sugarcoat the pain:  “We do not get to pick the ways in which God chooses to reveal himself.  Please understand what I am not saying.  The loss of Eliot is bad, big-bucket Bad, and I make no attempt to tie a bow on our own experience nor the immense pain I come across in the lives of others.  I miss him every day.”
People debate whether God causes bad things to happen, or ask why He doesn’t prevent them, or say that is He doesn’t prevent them, it’s just as bad as if He causes them.  Some people believe that every death and every tragedy is part of God’s plan, and directly willed by Him with a purpose that we cannot hope to understand.  Certainly all of us know that sometimes good things come out of bad things.  Matt writes about this toward the end of the book, in talking about his journey to pick up his adopted daughter, abandoned in a Ukrainian orphanage because she was disabled.  This was for me the most profound moment in a book that is overflowing with profound moments: “But for losing my son, I would not be in this car.  I would not be in Ukraine. . . . If Eliot were here, I would not be here.  The absolute worst thing in each of our lives was the thing that brought us together.  Without walking a road of pain and misery, our paths would never have crossed.  But they did.  Lena is my daughter.”
Off The Shelf-V3

Some Things Don't Make Sense

Terrible things evoke many responses:  tears; prayers; the urge to hide, to sleep, not to read or look or hear any more, or even to obsessively read and watch and learn everything about what happened; and, for writers, to write.  You wonder if maybe you shouldn’t.  You wonder if people will think you are capitalizing on a tragedy in order to get page views.  You wonder if anyone will care what you have to say, and why it matters anyway, what difference you can possibility make.  But in the end, you write because you have to, just like so many people on Facebook (almost EVERYONE) were drawn to post something, ANYTHING, yesterday to express their shock and horror and empathy.
We want to talk about it, we want to write about it, we want to share about it, because we crave community at a time like this.  And we crave answers.  We want to make some kind of sense of something that doesn’t make any kind of sense, and won’t, no matter how hard we try to make it.
So we talk about gun control.  People say that if we do that we are politicizing what happened.  But there shouldn’t BE anything political about doing something about gun violence in our society.  People say guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and that’s partly true, but two crazy men attacked school children yesterday, one in America with guns and one in China with a knife.  The kids in America are dead.  The kids in China will live.  Guns extend the reach and capacity for violence of those bent on doing harm to others.
The problem is that no laws that have been or will be proposed will go far enough.  I would ban all handguns and all semi-automatic weapons.  That’s never going to happen.  And that means they are going to be around where crazy people will get hold of them.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to pass what laws we can.  It’s not politicizing the deaths of these little children to try to do that now; it is RESPECTING them.
Then we talk about more help for those with mental illness.  I know from experience how hard it can be to find affordable assistance in this area, and also how time consuming and difficult it can be to get the right diagnosis and the right medication.  Again, would better mental health care have helped in this situation?  It’s too soon to tell without knowing more of this guy’s story.  Was he mentally ill?  Well, he pretty much had to be, didn’t he?
Which brings us to the problem of evil.  We aren’t going to solve this one today.  Or ever, not before we enter eternity.  My oldest child asked me, “Are people who do things like that mentally ill, or are they evil?”  I said (and I believe) that ANYONE who intentionally sets out to kill innocent people is by definition mentally ill.  I asked her which way she would prefer it to be.  She said, “I guess evil, so I could hate them.  But that would be too easy, so it probably isn’t the answer, is it?”
The gunman’s actions were evil.  Was HE evil?  Is mental illness itself an evil?  Does being severely mentally ill open people up to infestation of evil?  I’ve heard people describe certain criminals as monsters, not human beings.  But they are human beings, and at some point they were innocent babies.  And we don’t want to think about that because we don’t want to acknowledge our own potential for evil, or think about what it would be like if one or our own kids somehow turned out horribly, terribly wrong.  We want to stress the “otherness” of a person who could do something like that, because human beings don’t treat each other like that. Right?
Has the world turned evil, and have we done something to make it that way?  God created the world, and all that He made was good.  Yet can we deny that there is some sort of sickness in the core of our society?  But then, hasn’t it always been there?  Haven’t men been killing each other since the Fall, and it’s just that they now have both the ability to be more efficient and effective at doing it, and the media to publicize it for them?
And what about God anyway?  Many, many people who I am sure mean well have been posting Facebook memes about how of course things like this are going to happen since we kicked God out of our public schools.  Let me tell you what, no one kicked God out of anywhere.  He was THERE yesterday at that school.  He was in that principal who went bravely out into the hallway to confront the gunman and in the teachers who hid their kids and in the bathroom with the children hiding and their teacher telling them she loved them.  There was prayer in that school and there was prayer outside of it.  I read once that prayers are retroactive, outside time the way God is, so we can still pray that those children didn’t suffer and that they knew they would be going to God.  Whether the posters mean to imply it or not, those memes suggest that God punished us for outlawing school prayer by letting first graders die and that is just BULLSHIT.
So we can say a lot of things, and ask a lot of questions, and do whatever we can think of to try to stop something like this from EVER happening again, and we should (I predict universal metal detectors next).  But we all need to acknowledge the truth:  that ultimately there is only so much we can do.
Right after I heard about this yesterday I was scheduled to be the “mystery reader” in the my baby girl’s second grade classroom.  I had the surreal experience of being buzzed in, signing in and putting on my visitor badge (all the time thinking how ineffective such measures would be in the face of someone truly determined to kill).  I walked down the halls and into the classroom and gave my daughter a big hug, saw all the smiling faces, spent half an hour reading Christmas stories to 20 kids who had every expectation of being safe in their school, just like the first graders of Sandy Hook did.
But there is no truly place safe anywhere; that’s part of the human condition.  You could decide to homeschool your kids and they could die in a car wreck, or a home invasion, or a fire, or in their sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning, or of cancer.  If you have kids, if you love anyone, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of loss and pain. (And if you don’t, you are suffering a different kind of loss and pain.)
We can’t live in fear forever, so we will go on.  And in a few days, unless you are one of the people whose children were murdered, the numbness will wear off, like it did after Aurora, after 9-11, after Columbine, and so many more.  We will all go back to thinking about Christmas and worrying about our personal problems which right now seem so petty, so unimportant.
And if we can continue to hold the dead and the grieving up in prayer, and be a little kinder and more loving to those around us, it’s okay.  We have to live in this world, flawed though it is and though we are, at least for now.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.  Amen.

One Short Life

A year ago today, a young life ended.  Today marks the end of the first year that Henry’s family spent without him, longing for him on every holiday and birthday, at the birth of his sister  and death of his great-grandmother, during family milestones and every day moments.  They say that the first year is the hardest, and I hope that proves true, but circumstances have prevented this family’s grieving from following the usual course. Henry’s killers walk free, and the people who are supposed to protect and serve and to seek justice have not.
Katie filed a civil wrongful death suit today against the couple and the clinic who supplied the methadone that led to Henry’s death.  Just days after he died, the family set up a foundation which is already awarding scholarships to young people with addiction whose families cannot afford inpatient treatment.  WBIR T.V. produced a documentary on Henry’s short life and death which they aired twice, commercial free, and which  is now available to the public, showing both kids and their parents that addiction–and addicts–might look different from what they imagined.  Katie’s writing has raised awareness in our community and beyond about the prescription drug addiction crisis, and in advocating for a thorough investigation into her son’s death and prosecution of the perpetrators under the laws that are already on the books she will very likely change the way these cases are dealt with in the future.    Henry’s life had meaning, and people will remember him.  He made–he is making–a difference.

Why has Henry’s story captivated so many, and why have I written so much about him here?  His mother’s honesty, emotion, and beautiful writing have played a major role.  I had been reading Katie’s blog  for so many years that while I had only met in her person a few times and had never met Henry at all, I felt that I knew all of them and I am sure I am not the only one who felt the same.  Anyone who spends significant time in any online community ceases to feel a huge distinction between real life and virtual acquaintances. I was horrified when Katie posted that Henry had been hospitalized.  I visited frequently to check for updates.  I rejoiced when it looked like Henry was going to make it after all.  And I cried when I read Katie’s Facebook update with nothing more than her son’s full name and the dates of his short life.   If you start at the beginning, as so many did, and read through the little more than a month of postings that cover Henry’s struggle from hospitalization to painful death, you will be captivated too.
Then there was the second part of the story, the part that Katie waited a long time to tell:  that despite overwhelming evidence, most of which she had to search for herself, despite laws on the books allowing for prosecution for homicide of those who deliver a lethal dose of drugs, the powers that be in Knox County had declined to pursue a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Henry’s death.  This is another story well worth reading.  It will horrify and depress you, and if you live in Knox County it may frighten and even embarrass you.  Read the story, which lays out the facts of what happened to Henry at what the KCSO and the D.A.’s office have done in response.  Listen to the media coverage, both local and national, in the sidebar.
Henry’s cause is worth championing, but there is another very good reason that it is a fitting topic for my blog, which began as a continuation of my defunct column from the East Tennessee Catholic.  In the paper I wrote about life issues, usually abortion, but also assisted reproductive technology, euthanasia, the death penalty, even war.  I welcomed the chance that blogging gave me to branch out a little.  But what all the life issues share is the conviction that all life is sacred from conception until natural death.
People writing about Henry make much of the fact that he was sweet, handsome, talented, much-loved, that he was more than his addiction.  But those facts are not the reason that he deserves justice.  If Henry had been none of those things, if he really were the worthless junkie that some of the commenters on the Knoxville News-Sentinel coverage of the case–and even on Katie’s own blogs–would make him out to be, he would still deserve justice.  An “unattractive victim” is still a victim, a human being,  a child of God.

Henry’s life was his to live, and it was stolen from him.  He died painfully over several days.  It shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t go unnoticed and unpunished.  And if we believe that life is sacred and worthy of protection, we should all do whatever we can to make sure that nothing like it ever happens again, to anyone.
If you believe in the cause of justice for Henry, please go here and sign the petition asking for a full investigation into his death.  Thank you.