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The message came over Facebook late Monday night. “I just heard from his cousin. Josh took his own life last night. I am in shock. So sad.”

Josh was a good friend from college. After we graduated, I moved to Chicago, and he moved back home to Ohio. Over time, we lost touch. Sadly, the last time I remembered seeing Josh was 12 years ago, when we drove to Toledo for his brother’s funeral.

Now I found myself sitting at Josh’s funeral with more questions than answers. How does this happen? How could his mother, his sister, his wife, be forced to deal with so much pain? Could I have done anything to stop this? The priest shared some thoughtful insight:

“We have three choices when faced with a tragedy like this. We can be angry with God. We can choose to shut Him out of our lives and refuse to have anything more. I can understand why someone might feel that much anger from this. Second, we can protect God. We can say ‘God needed him’ or ‘he has gone to a better place.’ From my perspective, God does not need protecting, but some will take that perspective. But, we also have a third choice. We can do what we are all doing right now. We can come together, join hands and walk into this mystery side by side.”

It was the most compassionate thing that could have been said. He helped to make sense of what was happening and acknowledged that no one was claiming to know the answers. We simply chose to come together for this service as one and acknowledge the oneness of something more important than each of us individually.

Josh was a lover of music, and because music was such a part of who he was, his cousin looked to music to help everyone cope. She arranged to have two fellow musicians perform the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. All week long, nobody had known what to say. There really was nothing that could be said. She wanted to give us a word. Hallelujah means “praise God.” That weekend, it was the word we needed most. Hallelujah!

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