Her name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson. Have you ever heard of her? Me neither. The first time I was aware that she existed was last week when I saw a headline on a news website that said she had made an announcement that she was quitting Twitter. Apparently, several people on Twitter had posted cruel comments and memes about her size and weight.
It’s been more than a month since my surgery, which took place on November 4th. Last week, I made three trips to the pharmacy to pick up refills for different medications. I have one medication for nerve pain and a couple of other medications that I use for general pain. There’s also a medicated mouth rinse that I use after I brush my teeth. It’s supposed to reduce swelling and ward off infections.
In August 1971, I started my freshman year at Limestone High School in Bartonville, Illinois. In May of that year, one of my cousins on the Williams side of the family — I’ll call him Jason — had graduated from Limestone. Jason was an average student, but there was one thing that he accomplished during his high school years that his mom was extremely proud of. During his senior year, his classmates took a vote and named him “the toughest guy in the school.”
I ordinarily attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. Last Monday (March 25), I saw my parents at noon Mass and talked to them after the Mass. My mom told me that it was the 58th anniversary of her consecration to the Mother of God. I knew that she had made her consecration years ago, but I was not aware of the actual date.
As I walked out of the doctor’s office, my mind flashed back to the mid-1980s, when I taught Business Law at ICC. I spent a lot of time preparing for that class, but it was worth it. The young, fresh-faced students were captivated by the stories I told about my experience as a lawyer. To make the class more interesting, I intentionally wove stories throughout the material I presented to them. This made an otherwise boring class into an adventure into the inner workings of our justice system.
One of the things that I taught my students was the four basic elements that are required before a contract can be legally binding between two parties. The four elements are:
1. Offer – a promise to act or refrain from acting.
He told me he was at the Peoria police station being questioned by two detectives. He had been picked up at his house an hour earlier by police officers who arrived at the house in two squad cars, with their lights flashing. He said that his wife and children were horrified when the police officers put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.
Jake told me that he had answered a few general questions but then he got worried, and told the detectives that he wanted to talk to his attorney before answering any more questions. I told Jake not to answer any more questions, and that I would be at the police station within 10 minutes. When I arrived, I was escorted to the interrogation room and was left alone to talk to Jake. He told me he was being accused of assisting a woman with covering up a serious crime.
At that time, Jake was in his mid-40s and was unemployed. He was also addicted to cocaine. His wife had a good-paying job, and they still had young children at home. During our short conversation, I learned that Jake had been having an affair with the woman with whom he was accused of covering up a crime.
I stepped out of the room and told the detectives that Jake was not going to answer any more of their questions. I also told them that he had not done anything wrong other than hanging out and carrying on a relationship with a woman who had allegedly committed a crime. To my surprise, they let him go. They apparently didn’t believe they had enough evidence to charge him with a crime.
I drove Jake home and had a long conversation with him about how he knew better than to cheat on his wife. He had been raised as a Catholic but had been out of the church for several years. I told him that he needed to get his act together, or he was going to lose his wife and children. He listened to me and acted as though he appreciated my concern.
About a year after my experience with Jake, his mother called me — I’ll call her Jane — and asked me to prepare a will for her. Her husband had died several years earlier and because she was in her 70s, she wanted to make sure her affairs were in order. I had previously assisted Jane with another legal matter and I knew that she was a devout Catholic.
When we met to discuss her will, Jane expressed grave concern about Jake. She did not know anything about the incident with the police department. She had other grown children, but Jake had been a problem for her ever since he was a teenager. I asked her if she prayed a daily rosary. She was ashamed to admit that she did not pray the rosary every day, because she had been taught as a child that the rosary should be a part of her everyday routine.
Her reaction to my question surprised me. I have rarely encountered anyone who has been truly embarrassed to say that they we’re not praying a daily rosary. Most people simply recite a litany of excuses as to why they can’t get to their daily prayers. I told Jane that the best thing she could do for her son and the rest of her family was to pray a rosary every day and ask the Mother of God to watch over, guide, and protect them.
A few months passed by before I got around to preparing the will. Jane then came to my office to sign the will. While my assistant was making copies of the signed will, I asked Jane if she was praying her rosary every day. She told me that she had not missed a day since our initial appointment.
A couple of years after I prepared the will for Jane, I ran into Jake at a social event. I had not seen him since the night I had picked him up from the police station. I asked him how he was doing. He told me that after I dropped him off at his home, his wife started asking questions. He said that he eventually admitted to her that he was having an affair. After that, everything went downhill for him.
He said that things got so bad, one evening he loaded a pistol that he had hidden away, and went for a long walk. He had decided that he was going to end his life. He walked over to a wooded area several blocks from where he lived. He then lifted the gun to his head. He couldn’t explain to me what happened next. He said that it was as though an invisible force stopped him from pulling the trigger. As much as he wanted to kill himself, he was unable to complete the act. After a while, he put the gun back into his pocket, walked home, and went to bed.
About six months after Jake told me about his experience with the gun, his mom called and scheduled an appointment to revise her will. I met with her and discussed the changes she wanted in the will. I then asked how her family was doing. She told me that she was still very worried about Jake, but that he seemed to be doing better. I asked her if she was praying her rosary every day, and she said, “I don’t just pray one rosary, I pray three rosaries every day. I want to make sure that the Blessed Mother protects my family.”
Around the same time that I assisted Jane with her will, I had another devout Catholic mother who called me to discuss a legal matter. I had talked to her about the Catholic faith on a few previous occasions, and she had told me that in addition to attending daily Mass and praying a daily rosary, she had consecrated herself to Jesus through Mary, by using the process outlined by St. Louis De Montfort in his book True Devotion to Mary.
After we discussed her legal matter, she told me about her college-educated son who lived in another state. She said that at one point he had lost his job and broke up with his girlfriend, which caused him to suffer from severe depression. She said that she had talked to him periodically over the phone and after one of her phone calls, she had a sense that he was so bad off that he was going to commit suicide.
Her feeling was so strong that she told her husband that she had no other choice but to buy a plane ticket, so she could fly out to see him. And that’s exactly what she did. She said that when she arrived at his house, she felt a darkness and despair that she had never experienced. She ended up staying at her son’s house for more than a month. When she returned home, she felt as though her prayers had been answered and that his despair had subsided. Shortly thereafter, some positive things started happening for her son. She told me that she believed that the Mother of God had intervened and our Lord had performed a miracle on behalf of her son.
Within the past year, another one of my clients told me that her teenage daughter had been suicidal and had taken steps to plan how she was going to kill herself. The mother said that her daughter had been repeatedly bullied at school and was having gender identity issues. Things got worse when her daughter moved out of her house and into a house with a couple of guys who were older than her. Within a week of moving, the daughter was involved in an automobile accident that caused damage to some property. She fled the scene of the accident and was later arrested. After her arrest, she called her mother and asked her to come to the police station to pick her up. The daughter subsequently moved home and admitted that she needed help. Her mother then got her into counseling.
When I asked the mother if she was praying her daily rosary — something that I had convinced her to do several years ago — she told me that she had been faithfully praying her rosary every day. While the situation with her daughter had improved, her daughter still had a long way to go, but the mother was certain that the Blessed Virgin Mary was watching over her family and would see to it that everything worked out for them.
Last week I wrote that there are three specific things that you can do to guarantee that during the last 60 minutes of life for you and each member of your immediate family (your spouse, children, parents, and siblings), your souls will not be lost for all eternity. Doing those three things also protects you and each member of your immediate family from ever committing suicide.
As I pointed out last week, the three things are: (1) Remain in the state of grace by following the rules of the Catholic Church; (2) Pray a rosary every day while doing your best to meditate on its mysteries; and (3) Consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary by using a consecration process such as the one provided by St. Louis De Montfort in his book True Devotion to Mary, or the one provided by Fr. Michael Gaitley in his book 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration.
I know for certain that the mother who traveled to be with her son had put all three of the above-mentioned things into practice. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask the other two mothers if they had made the consecration, but I do know that they were devout Catholics who prayed their rosary every day.
I’ll have a few more things to say about this topic next week.
Three years after the Donny and Marie show ended (1982), Marie married her first husband. The two divorced in 1985, and she married her second husband a year later. She divorced her second husband in 2007. During her two marriages, Marie had three biological children and adopted five children. On February 26, 2010, her 18-year-old son, Michael, committed suicide by jumping off the eighth-floor balcony of his apartment in Los Angeles.
During an interview several months after Michael’s death, Marie disclosed that Michael struggled from depression and had previously attempted to take his own life. She said that after his initial failed suicide attempt, he promised her that he would “never do anything like that again.” She also lamented, “People say things like, ‘Well, at least you have seven more children.’ No, I have eight children. My heart will never put anybody else in that place but Michael.”
I previously wrote about the suicide of the 27-year-old son of Rick and Kay Warren, the co-founders of Saddleback Church, an evangelical church in California. Their son had suffered from mental illness for most of his life. On April 5, 2013, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Kay later told a reporter, “A lot of it’s a blur. I just know I hit the ground and laid on the ground for hours, sobbing… I will never get over losing my son. I will never stop missing him.”
There is nothing more devastating to a mother than the suicide of a son or a daughter.
We know from the Gospel of Mark that during our Lord’s public life, He was approached by a synagogue leader who told Him that the leader’s 12-year-old daughter was “at the point of death.” He then said to our Lord, “Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” Mark 5:21-24
Prior to arriving at the synagogue leader’s house, our Lord was told that the girl had already died. He still went to the house with some of His apostles and the girl’s father. When they arrived at the house, our Lord entered the dead girl’s room, held her hand, and told her to rise. The girl immediately woke up and started walking around. Our Lord told the girl’s father to give her something to eat. He then gave strict orders to everyone who was present not to tell anyone what had happened. Mark 5:35-43
Raising the young girl from the dead was not our Lord’s first miracle. His first public miracle was described in the Gospel of John:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Warren is a genuine Christian leader who, despite an immense amount of pressure from outside groups and the media, has refused to abandon his traditional evangelical beliefs. He is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, and is an advocate of abstinence-only education, instead of the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Warren married his wife Kay in 1975, and they subsequently raised three children. On the morning of April 5, 2013, their youngest son, Matthew, committed suicide. The day after Matthew’s death, Warren sent an email to the members of his church that stated, in part:
No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.