A Secret, an Eulogy, and a Prayer

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Here’s a secret: I’m a bad person.

On June 5th I found out my friend Kacie died of a Heroin overdose. She was 23 years old. On June 6th, she would have been 24.

Why does this make me a bad person?

7th Bday 1
This is my 7th birthday party, that’s Kacie in pink on the far left and me in pink on the far right.

When we were in elementary school, Kacie and I were best friends. We had friendship bracelets and everything. We went to each other’s birthday parties. We played together during recess. My Mom recently told me a story about Kacie being scared when her mother was taken to the hospital, and how Kacie called late on a Saturday to ask me to come spend the night at her house so she wouldn’t be alone. At first my Mom said no, but then Kacie’s grandmother called to beg my Mom to let me come, that Kacie needed me. I went. I do not remember this event.

I do remember, vividly, exploring the woods behind Kacie’s house armed with steak knives with the intention of chopping down trees to build a fort (we knew butter knives would be too dull, but we weren’t strong enough to make the steak knives work either, so we didn’t get very far in the fort-building process).

Kacie was a girl I had essentially grown up with. I remember chatting with her about Sailor Moon and boys in 6th grade, arguing about electricity in 5th grade, doing the talent show together in 4th grade (Spice Girls, anyone?), drawing with gel pens on black paper in 3rd grade.

You know something really terrible? I can’t picture Kacie at all in 7th grade. I have a very blurry memory of her at the 8th grade dance. I see her sitting across from me at Poetry Club in 9th grade. Actually, my only memories of Kacie after 9th grade involve poetry club, reading the verses and prose she wrote, sometimes seeing her.

I’ve barely thought about Kacie for ten years. The girl I once shared “Best Friend” bracelets with. On June 5th I found out she died, but her father found her kneeling before her bed—in a pose I cannot help but associate with prayer—her lips blue and her spirit elsewhere on March 12th. I missed her death by over two months. When I learned about Kacie’s death, I posted on my Facebook page a notice of her death (in case other Facebook friends had missed her passing) and the declaration: “I am a bad person,” the Facebook/secular equivalent of “I am a sinner. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

Now don’t get me wrong, people grow up and grow apart and that’s a part of life. Children might be able to maintain 100 good friendships but adults are lucky if they have five. The sin I publicly confessed was that of Ezekiel 33:7-9:

“You, son of man,” (God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel, who stands in for all Jews/Christians/believers), “I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”

You see, Kacie and I didn’t just grow apart. I chose not to be her friend. In High School, I saw her getting dangerously thin, dying her hair unnatural colors and wearing makeup in a way that clearly said: “I am emo” which was sort of a counter-cultural fashion/music statement but much more a declaration of joining the “wrong sort” of crowd…the people who supported her in addiction and skipping class and treating life like something that should be rebelled against rather than honestly enjoyed. I saw, I knew, but I did nothing to “dissuade Kacie from her way,” I simply turned my back and ignored her. That means God will hold me responsible for her death. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

In truth there are no “wrong sorts” of people, no irrevocably wicked men or women, to borrow Ezekiel’s word. There are sinners. We are all sinners, and when we see someone else sinning*, someone else in trouble, and do nothing, their sin becomes our own.

After I declared “I am a bad person” on Facebook, I got some replies from people worried that I was depressed or mentally unstable, but I assure you I am too little effected by Kacie’s death. Kacie was a friend, someone I knew to be in trouble, and I did nothing. Even fake-black haired with eyeliner tears drawn on her cheek, she was sweet and kind and wrote beautiful poetry. She was a worthy of dignity, a “beautiful Daughter of the King” as one of my holier-than-me friends says.

Usually I don’t like to share–or read–such personal confessions online, but I think God intends my sudden experience of an old sin as a “teachable moment.” When we see others suffering as a result of their own sin, it is our responsibility as Christians to try to dissuade our fellow fallen human beings from their way. If we do not, we too are guilty. Now Kacie’s parents are promoting awareness of drug abuse, trying to change the world for the better in Kacie’s name (http://www.kaciescause.com/) and I am left doing the only thing a failed Christian , a failed daughter of man can do: pray.

Kacie, I will pray for you and with you every day for the rest of my life. Hopefully God will allow me to atone for my sin of ignoring your pain.

Siobhan Benitez

Siobhan Benitez

After growing up near Kennett Square, PA, the Mushroom Capitol of the World, Siobhan knew she would always live in a bustling capitol city. She earned a B.A. in Theology, History, and Classics at Mount St. Mary's University and an M.A. in Theology (specializing in Systematics) at Villanova University. Now she lives in Washington, D.C. with her wonderful husband where she is still getting used to living with a boy, right down to playing video games and watching football. When she's not hanging out with him or reading novels, she uses her spare time to earn a PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America.

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13 thoughts on “A Secret, an Eulogy, and a Prayer”

  1. Pingback: A Secret, an Eulogy, and a Prayer - CATHOLIC FEAST - Every day is a Celebration

      1. Avatar

        Yes, RC. If Kacie were alive in Ezikiel’s time she would have been
        stoned to death for being a witch or adultery ect. Who knows what
        they would have done for drugs. When you have to measure your guilt against that kind of extremism you are not part of the present reality. Jesus, in Matthew, said it better. Don’t take on more than you are given. It is a bit presumptious to think that her friend would be alive today had she said something. I’m sure she’s confessed
        this mea culpa too but even absolution didn’t allow her to forgive herself. So much for OT readings.

      2. Avatar

        But wouldn’t you feel guilty if you saw one of your closest friends or family spiral out of control? This is a perfectly natural reaction to an unnatural death.

  2. Avatar

    What a heartfelt and difficult post this must have been! I admire you for facing your own heart for one, and then putting it out there for the world to see. If you can bear with me, there are a couple thoughts that come to mind that I want to share with you.

    1. When dealing with such a personal and preventable tragedy, it is very easy to succumb to the temptation of wisdom from hindsight and engage in “if only” kinds of thoughts. We make vows and promises to ourselves that we will do things differently. We do this nationally to after a tragedy or natural disaster. Congress passes a slew of knee jerk laws that are more designed to make people feel better than prevent anything. Allow yourself to grieve and then don’t torture yourself with “if only” thoughts. That leads to depression.

    2. Many, many people, including priests and religious, come from a rough past where they go through periods of drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, experimentation with the occult, alcoholism, etc. Some people make it out alive. Some don’t. Even more experiment with many of these things for a while but manage to avoid becoming addicted or dependent. Again, only some make it out alive. It is important to understand that when someone is going though a period like this, they may not be open to or even want to hear someone like an old friend coming to them and telling them to stop. I’m not saying either way that your silence led her to her overdose, or that if you had said something it would have had any impact. Sometimes it takes years for someone to actually listen to something a friend may have said about a destructive behavior or habit. The point is, a lot of the time, addicts and partiers alike scoff and sneer at those who try to help them.

    3. Another thing to consider is that you were not disposed to that behavior and in some way wanted to shield yourself from it, and that is perfectly understandable. I generally avoid the kind of parties and situations of which I am aware there is going to be drugs/drunken stupidity/hooking up, etc. Maybe some people can go into those situations for the purpose of evangelization, but I can’t. It is perfectly understandable for you to avoid an occasion of sin by cutting people out of your life that can potentially be a bad influence. There is nothing to stop us from praying, fasting, or doing penance for someone who we love without having to go up to them and say our piece.

    We may be our brother’s keeper to an extent, but in the end, we all make our own choices about our lives. In the end, you cannot in any way shape or form make the decision if someone else is going to use drugs, hook up with someone they met half an hour ago, or get drunk and drive home. We are held accountable for our own actions. You are grieving now, but you must realize that you are not responsible for her death. She made her choices and you made yours. Ask God to forgive you for anything that He may know you are responsible for and He will. Then you have to forgive yourself…

  3. Avatar

    “In truth there are no “wrong sorts” of people”

    You’re quite mistaken, and you’ll be sure of it when you have teen-aged children of your own. A fifteen-year-old girl can’t rescue anybody, and it’s perilous for her to try. People don’t commit suicide because they’ve wandered by chance into the wrong crowd at school; they commit suicide AND get into the wrong crowd because they’ve got serious problems, problems too big for you to fix. You did what feels wrong to a young person but is absolutely right: you didn’t let yourself be overwhelmed and drowned by somebody you couldn’t save.

  4. Pingback: Restoring Image of God in Our Lives Helps Mental Health -BigPulpit.com

  5. Avatar

    Hmmm, I’m sorry I didn’t check back for comments earlier. James is correct that if I thought I could somehow prevent Kacie’s physical death I would be suffering from an extreme case of arrogance, but that is not what this post is about, nor am I racked with guilt.

    Christ did not come to abolish the Old Testament but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) and the point of Ezekiel 33:7-9 will always stand: if we do not point out another person’s sin, we too are sinners. This applies not only to cases of misled teenagers, but also to sitting around the family Thanksgiving table and not objecting to the sin of our brother practicing homosexual relations, or our niece shoplifting, or watching a stranger spit on a homeless person and failing to object. Complacency to sin *is* a sin. The Lord does not require us to successfully change a sinner’s heart or deeds, merely to alert the sinner that something is amiss.

  6. Pingback: Catholic Woman’s Almanac {CWA} Vol. 7 | Filling my Prayer Closet

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