Sunday, October 31, 2010

Alex, in the words of his Sister

Sister Teresa Benedicta, OP, was Alex's Theology and Humanities teacher at Rhodora Donahue Academy, his friend, and his spiritual mentor. I asked her to send the remarks she delivered at his wake (or was it the funeral? many details from that week are fuzzy) as a way to introduce Alex to those who did not know him.

Alex Klucik & Sister Teresa Benedicta, OP, at graduation June 2010
Writing an introduction to a young person is an impossible task.  How do you capture a shining smile with words?  How do you communicate the beauty of a heart seeking greatness, freedom, and true happiness?   How do you portray life?   How do you express both the ache that we feel because we miss him and the joy that we know because Alex lives still?
Alex is…Alex.  He brought happiness to everyone just by being Alex.  You couldn’t help but love him.     
There was the delight felt when Alex wore a gaudy sombrero to class one day.   There were the goofy accents that Alex tried out at random times; the paper he agonized over; the pizza he rejoiced about; the passion he expressed when discussing ideas.   And eggs.[1]    
The little kids at the school used to return to their classrooms and proudly say to the Sisters, “I just got a high five from Alex.”   Near Thanksgiving, the third graders[2] made the seniors Indian headbands complete with feathers and intricate designs.  Alex wore his headdress all day.  I can still see him, hand over his mouth, war-whooping down the hallway with a line of third-graders following after.  The best part was that at the end of the day he forgot he was wearing a headdress and after school let out, Alex walked all across Ave wondering why people were giving him such funny looks.
Once we had school drill to practice what we would do if an unwanted intruder came into the Academy.  The students were supposed to hide in a corner with the lights off and the door closed.  I had told the guys, however, that if there ever was a real intruder, I fully expected them to protect me and the girls.   Consequently, when the official practice occurred, Alex put his hands together in the form of a mock gun.   With just his fingers, he was ready to save the whole class.  Before anyone could stop him, Alex had slunk along the wall to shoot an imaginary sniper before the sniper got us.  Only when Alex rounded the corner there wasn’t any imaginary sniper, there was our beloved headmaster.
 Alex wanted to be cool but his passionate personality and generous heart often contradicted his put-on suaveness.   I will always remember Alex arguing with Edwing about Martin Luther’s role in the reformation while on lifeguard duty.  Or Alex’s intense hatred for King George because of the way he treated the American people during the Revolution.  Or Alex sneaking into the third grade to join them for math class.  Or Alex putting up on his Facebook page the quote from the Catechism, “The more one does the good, the freer he becomes.”
Alex had a special spot in his heart for the Sisters.   Like all the men in his class, he looked out for us.  At the pro-life March, Alex carried my backpack—as well as his own—all over D.C.  When I went to give blood at the University blood drive, Alex went with me to give blood too.  When they went to Taco Bell, Alex and the guys made sure to bring back something for the Sisters.  (Except the first time the guys bought back burritos for the Sisters from Taco Bell they “accidently” ate them all before they made it back to Ave.)
Once, because of an all-day field trip, the students were going to miss the morning Mass at the Academy.  I suggested that they all get up a half-hour early and meet me for Mass at the Oratory.  “If you all did that of your own free will,” I said, “that would make my day.”  Alex grinned.  “Then, Sister,” he replied, “I’ll guess I will have to be there.”  He was, too.
Alex was a man of prayer.  Sometimes when I would pray before class Alex would jump in at the end and add his own words to the prayer.  Sometimes before class he would suggest things that we needed to pray for.   That took courage.
Alex was the first student to come to my room and say, “Sister, can I talk to you?”  He wanted advice and guidance in following God.  He often complained when I gave him suggestions but he took it to heart all the same.  He wanted to be good…That is not to say he always was virtuous.  I don’t want to gloss over the reality of a teen who struggled with sin.  Neither, however, do I want to ignore the man who strove for holiness.
During his senior year I watched Alex try again and again to follow God more faithfully, more truly.   I saw him grow closer to God because no matter how many times he fell, he wasn’t afraid to get up and keep trying again, and again, and again.  This is one of the reasons Alex won my respect and admiration and love.  In this, I wish to imitate his example.
My last memory of Alex is in the Adoration chapel.  He made a holy hour every Sunday morning and I happened to go to Holy Hour with him the day I left [Ave Maria for the summer break in June 2010] . I prayed the Divine Office and Alex prayed the rosary.  Afterward, Alex walked me home and told me how much closer he had come to God this year and how he wanted to keep up his prayer life over the summer.  He also told me that he was going to really pray for his classmates, for the future of those who had just graduated and for those who would still be at the academy.
Over the summer Alex and his friends decided to form a "brotherhood in Christ" where they helped and challenged each other to holiness.  They began to make Holy Hours together...His classmates told me they went to confession together just days before he died...Alex's last words to his family were to tell them they needed to start praying the family rosary every day.  (They do now.)  In Alex's pocket, they found a torn piece of paper listing his plans for personal prayer...
I really believe Alex is with our Heavenly Father.  I am praying for him constantly but more often than not, I have the peace that he is praying for me and with me.   His presence in my life is different than it was before but Alex is still here.  He knows more, sees more, IS more.  Somehow, beholding the face of the Father, Alex is closer to me than he ever was.  As the Sisters say in the convent, “There is no distance between Tabernacles.”  Not on earth, not in eternity.   

 Sister Teresa Benedicta, Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist

[1] One evening Alex and his friends decided to text everyone the message, “I love eggs.”  Overnight, it became a saying in the high school.
[2] The third grade “adopted” the seniors.  They paired up with a senior buddy and faithfully prayed for their senior each day, delighting in the least bit of acknowledgement and response from their senior.

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