The years of our lives are made up of a collection of seconds, any one of those seconds can change all the seconds that follow, all the seconds that make up the rest of our lives. We may be asking ourselves why, but I cannot give you the answer to that searing question. I wish I could. I do know that we hear in Scripture that God's ways are not our ways. Clearly, that is true...but even more true than that is God's promise that he will never leave us. God is with us now and I firmly believe that God was holding Anthony and Gabby in the palm of his hand in that car last Friday morning, September 29th, the Feast of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael, the Archangels.
I do not have the answer to the question why. But I do think that Anthony's death gives us an answer to the question, "How." How do we live our lives from this moment on? If Anthony's sudden and untimely death teach us anything, it's how to live this precious life we have been given. The time is now to celebrate. The time is now to forgive and reconcile. The time is now to notice the beauty of the changing leaves. The time is now to turn on the radio and play it loud. The time is now to dance as if nobody is watching...somebody probably is, but who cares? Do it anyway. The time is now to connect with that family member or friend we've been meaning to call. The time is now to live our lives in a way that gives witness to others that there is a God, and he sits on our shoulders and carries us, making just one set of footprints in the sand. Anthony gave us all the gift of life, if we make each second count, if we make each second filled with goodness and grace.
The days that have transpired since have been nothing short of devastating, miraculous, and blessed as we prayed and kept vigil with Anthony, Gabby, Rob, Mel, and the Penna family. To be sure, words cannot capture the tragedy and the beauty of the last week, but one thing is certain, that the journey we traversed was and is right here and now, holy ground. We prayed, we cried, we remembered, we laughed. In fact, as a group of about 20 of us prepared to enter the operating room to escort Anthony to Jesus, we were dressed in white sterile scrub uniforms and funky shower cap-like head gear. Rob turned and looked at all of us and said, "We look ridiculous!" And indeed we did!
Gabby, Mel and Rob, the Penna family, the students of Archmere, Saint Edmond's, Ursuline, and Salesianum communities have redefined the term Amazing Grace...our Archmere Auks...the parking lot, the heart, the tributes, the courage, the community...team Mel.
Anthony was an organ donor. And on Tuesday night, October 3rd, when the nurse nodded, indicating that Anthony had breathed his last, I will never forget Mel's response: "OK, now go save some lives, Baby." Indeed, that very night, three individuals were waiting to receive Anthony's organs, his gift of life. And many others stand to benefit in the days to come.
Anthony was a Mastersinger, a soccer player. He was loved by so many. The display of love and support last night at the Patio was stunning, simply beyond words. Anthony was also a pretty smooth operator. Rob tells the story of just recently, Anthony was concerned about some physics problem he had to resolve that night. Rob said, "OK, Anthony, go upstairs and get to work and I'll check on you in a while." When he went into Anthony's room, Anthony was playing a video game. Rob, confused by the fact that shortly before, Anthony was worried about his physics homework. "Anthony," Rob said, "How come you're playing a video game....shouldn't you be trying to get that physics problem solved?" "No worries, Dad," he said not interrupting his video game, "I got people working on it!"
Anthony James Penna was born on August 10, 2000 weighing 6lbs. 9 oz., and was 20 inches long. Brothers and sisters, in the year 2000, Anthony James Penna was baptized into Christ on Saturday, October 7th.