Today, April 28, is a day that will forever haunt me for the rest of my life. This was the day I lost my best friend, Patrick Pudlewski, in a car accident in 2013. I never thought that my best friend I had just hugged and said "See you at school tomorrow!" after the 9:00 A.M mass would then be called to our Lord Jesus just 15 minutes later. I never thought I would drive by the accident on my way to work and not even realize he was gone. I wish my mom did not wake me up from my nap later that day and sit me down to tell me he was gone. I was in such shock, I jumped into action. Within the next hour, I had set up a candlelight vigil for Patrick and for our Lehman community in order for all of us to come together and pray.
The following week was the hardest time of my life. Having to help plan your best friend’s funeral is so hard, and processing everything that happened made for a long week. During this week, I was asked many a time "Why did God do this?" "Why does this happen?"
That week I responded to these questions with the phrase of "This is not the end!", emphasizing that it was through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross, whom Patrick loved and was growing in his relationship with, that allowed Patrick to attain salvation; the very Jesus he had just received before he died. I also told people that "This is not the end, for one day we will see him again." What many people didn't know, however, is that I had my own faith crisis that was going inside of myself during this time.
Everyone knew I was the "religious one" of my class, and however true that may have been, this was a great test for me. I didn't understand why God did this, and I sure as heck had doubts about what will happen. After talking to Fr. Hess a couple of weeks after the funeral I started to get better about the whole thing. Many people like to view it as God calling him away to save him from some horrific life event or trial, which is how I felt too, which is a valid thought and feeling. I believe it goes deeper than just that, however.
Reflecting on death has been something I have been doing for the last couple of years, as not only did I lose Patrick, I lost a good friend from my childhood Austin, a family my family is friends with lost their father Steve, and the loss of my Great Aunt Betty. I have asked why God has done these things. I have come to this realization about death: people need a realization that this life is not all there is, that is why what Jesus Christ did is so important, and that we need people praying for us and examples to us of how we can change ourselves toward a life for God. I have prayed for Patrick and others here and there every day since that day, and I know he is praying for me, and has shown me how to love God more. I am not saying God took Puddles away for me, but because Patrick had a time on earth just like everyone else, and God felt his mission in life was fulfilled, and our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to give Patrick the chance to leave this world and join in that Eternal Reward that Christ won for us.
This can be true with any death we experience, that it is not the end, not only of the possibility of us seeing them, but for their eternal life. God gives all of us different missions; vocations in which we are to respond and glorify God in, and some are called away sooner than others, but death should not be feared. While it is sad to lose someone close to you, it is an opportunity from God to reflect on one's own life, and also pray for and look at the person who died, whom God created for a purpose.
Patrick has helped me keeping going in my life, and helped me know how to love our Lord even more. I knew this during Kairos, but I know it even better now. I was honored to be able to read his Kairos application essay yesterday, and I was going to quote out of it to show you how Puddles exemplifies Christ and helps me, but I think it is best if Puddles tells you about his relationship with our Lord:
"Quite honestly, Jesus tends to be the one person I turn to when I need help with something out of my control. My faith is what helps me get through the tough days and just helps me in general. Jesus is my role model; I want to be like him in just about every way. I know I will never be exactly like him but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. If I didn’t have Jesus in my life I have no idea where I would be right now. He guides me on my way through life. I know sometimes I fall but I always turn back to him and ask for his help. I wish I could meet him in person, but then again I guess we all will at some point. I want to get to know him more and more though. I realize I will never fully understand him, but I can’t think of something more worthwhile to spend time studying. I honestly can’t imagine not knowing Jesus and his awesomeness. Life must be depressing for atheists; I mean they don’t know the joy of knowing God and they deny that He even exists. That has to be a tough life; they essentially cut out hope of something more than themselves. That is why Jesus is so important in my life; he gives me hope that there is something better after this life. He inspires me to continue every day and try to be more and more like him. I can honestly say I love him and would do anything for him. That is essentially the role Christ plays in my life; he is my rock.
I think I am called to be a Kairos leader because I think I can help others know the faith more fully, granted I only know so much. I still believe I can be a good Kairos leader and help my peers know what I see when I see God. I feel like God can use me to bring others more fully into the faith. I am devoted, loving, and I rarely give up once I start something. So, I guess you could say that I am a little stubborn, but I don’t believe anyone is a lost cause or that they can’t be saved. I guess what I am trying to say is that, I know I can help others, I want to help others, and I believe I can help others. That’s pretty much why I think I am called to be a Kairos leader."
- Patrick Michael Pudlewski (December 26, 1995 - April 28, 2013)
I believe that was his mission: To "help my peers know what I see when I see God". Although he did not get a chance to lead Kairos, he was able to do this with his life and example. I will never forget as our relationship developed, the more eager he was to learn about the faith and go on retreats, that we would go to confession together sometimes, and I even got him to come to church with me for some special events, such as Divine Mercy Sunday, which was just two weeks before he died. This is how I know he is praying for me and that he was doing the will of God in spreading his love for Christ with others. His death should not be seen as an end or loss of something great, but as a life that was lived and developing in the love of Jesus Christ. A life that reflects those very words he wrote on that page. I will never forget you Puddles, and I pray I am worthy to enter into God's Kingdom and experience that same joy you had when you saw Jesus for the first time. Requiescat in Pace.
Special thanks to the Pudlewski family for allowing me to write about Puddles and post his Kairos essay on my blog. Please be assured of my constant prayers.