Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The pain of loss

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OSCO, Commentary | Published March 6, 2014

The story has been carried on the news all day. It is a story of loss and grief. There are many such stories every day—but this one hit home to me. A man moved to Atlanta from New Jersey and parked his car at an ATM place. In a matter of seconds, while he was at the machine, his car was stolen. The loss of a car he could have dealt with. But in the trunk of his car was an urn holding the ashes of his dad. And in the back of the car was a baseball glove that had belonged to his brother, who lost his life in a motorcycle accident. The loss of those two items broke his heart. He cried as he told reporters about the loss. He said that he used to sleep holding the baseball glove. I hope that whoever took the car has the heart to return the glove and the urn. I wonder if he or she knows that part of a life was taken along with two things that are of questionable worth. They are the kind of things that cannot be fenced, or sold, or even given away. They only exist to be cherished by one whose heart was attached to them.

I have some things that were shared by me and my brother. He also died in a motor vehicle accident back in 1966. We were twins. I have his high school sweatshirt, his Madras shirt, his bass guitar, his high school French book, some pictures, our yearbook, his wallet. I treasure those things. But they are more than things—they carry something of my brother. He held them, cherished them while he lived (except perhaps the French book), and I still consider them as belonging to him. Some things I have lost along the way. I moved a lot before I came here, and things were lost by the movers over the years. I still feel bad about that. I should have been more careful. But they are gone. I am glad for what I do have.

I like to think that a lot of people listened to the news this day and hopefully, made a mental note of the stolen urn and glove. They will watch for those two items, with as much diligence as if it was their own loss. There are many times in life when we want to make things right for other people but lack the means or the ability. Yet we watch and listen, and wait until the opportunity comes to make a home run. Maybe this will be one of those times. Someone will spot the glove or the urn—maybe even both at once, and make the right connections to get them back to their owner.

And maybe there is goodness in the thief who made off with the car. The best we can do here at the monastery is pray that his or her heart is softened and that a radio or TV is within earshot (or eyeshot?). I believe that that kind of prayer is as powerful as it is real. Imagine what a world it would be if we had the power to return every item that was ever lost. Imagine what a world it would be if we had the power to give the dead back to the broken-hearted living. But these things are beyond our power—but not beyond our hopes.

Whoever took the glove and the urn has the power to make a man’s heart whole again. What he or she willfully shattered can be fixed. The only home that those items have is the heart of a man who desperately wants them back. The thief has a heart – I hope his or her ear is attuned to it, like those of us listening to the radio this day, sharing the grief of a man we will never meet but who is so much like us all.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at