Countdown: #1

December 31, 2016

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I highlight the top 6 From The Deacon’s Desk posts of the year.

Here is #1 in the countdown, posted in April, titled: Remembering Kyle

A BCHS teacher, Kyle Guyton, passed away last Tuesday while chaperoning a school trip to Europe. He was a 2011 Bishop Chatard graduate and a first-year teacher at the school. He was just 22 years old.

The entire Bishop Chatard community, along with members of Kyle’s family, came together for a memorial service in honor of Kyle. The following are the thoughts I shared with the community:

This is not the first time we have come together like this. In the past we have come together in this gym to pray for other schools that were suffering. We did that because it was the right thing to do. Where two or three gather in His name, God is in their midst. By sending those prayers out to a suffering community, we were loving God and loving others. We were sending those who were suffering a message of comfort and peace.

Today, we acknowledge our own loss, our own tragedy. Today it is personal. The faculty and staff lost a co-worker and a friend. Students lost a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and a strong Christian role model. People in this building are hurting.

So today we come together as a community. We form the Body of Christ, and in so doing, we immediately become stronger. It is a time to support and comfort one another. We will do that through prayer, reflection, and a sharing of memories.

As a deacon, I have counseled many people who have experienced difficult situations in their lives. What I have discovered is that human beings like to be in control, or at least believe they are in control. So when tragedy comes along, we try to “tough it out.” We convince ourselves that we don’t need anyone else, and that we are strong enough to get through anything on our own. At the very time we need God the most we shut Him out.

I speak from experience. When I heard of Kyle’s death on Tuesday morning, I was overwhelmed. The very first thing I should have done is drop down on my knees and asked for God’s help. I should have been honest and admitted this was more than I could handle alone, and prayed for God to enter my heart, to be with me and guide me.

Instead, I immediately went into administrator mode. I made a list of all that needed to be done, who needed to be contacted, who needed extra support, and how we could best provide for the community. These are all important things, but I skipped the critical first step: Turn to God.

It was not until Wednesday night, sitting alone in my house, that I cried. It was then that I turned to God. I asked Him where He had been through all of this.

I realized that I had not followed the very advice I have offered to so many others: In difficult times, turn toward God, not away from Him. Don’t try to handle things on your own. Allow God to love you.

It was at that point that I allowed myself to feel the sadness and sense of loss. I stopped trying to wrap my head around why a young man with so many gifts and such great promise was gone. I had to accept the fact that I might never understand why Kyle had to die, no matter how much time I spent trying to figure it out. However, God’s love is available right now.

I invite all of you to recognize that as well; God’s love is available to you right now.

We have signs all over the building that remind us: You are loved. You have value. You are not alone.

 I want to emphasize that last point today: You are not alone. God is waiting for you to turn to Him. You will be strengthened and comforted by His love, and by the love that comes from Him through others. You are not alone.

A person who has modeled that so beautifully for us is the person who is suffering the most – Kyle’s mom, Kathy.

This is something she shared about Kyle’s death: “God has a plan, a purpose for this. Who knows what it is. I surely don’t. But I’m thankful. I’m thankful and blessed to have been used as a vessel to be Kyle’s mom.”

Thank you, Kathy, for being a witness to what it means to turn to God in times of sorrow, and having faith that you are not alone.

**********

During this Easter season, our hope in the resurrection gives us strength and comfort. It is this hope that allows us to celebrate his life, even in our sadness.

So many students have shared the impact Kyle had on their lives. He had a passion for theatre and a passion for young people, a beautiful combination that produced much fruit in a short time. They speak about Kyle as a friend more than as a teacher.

Teachers have shared with me their love of Kyle as a co-worker and friend. For many on our staff, Kyle was also a former student – a student who offered so much to the school. Mrs. O’Connell shared with me that the Student Union Haunted House was Kyle’s idea when he was a student here – an idea he planned and executed.

Kyle was never short on ideas. He was very creative and wanted everything associated with Bishop Chatard theatre to be the best it could be.

The day after we hired him, he came to my office with two pages of ideas for the theatre program. I certainly wanted to encourage that type of enthusiasm, but I had to explain how Catholic school budgets work because many of his ideas came with hefty price tags.

It became kind of a joke between Kyle and me. Each time he knocked on my door, he would give that sly little smile of his and say, “I have another idea.”

Hope in the resurrection makes it possible for us to recall and appreciate the joy he experienced in this life, and be grateful for the gifts he shared with all of us.

As we hear in Matthew’s Gospel: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”

Well done, Kyle; you have been a good and faithful servant. We love you and will miss you, but are happy that you will share your Master’s joy.

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