“Where is heaven? How do I find the right hallway? How do I know if I’m going to the right place? I’m scared about getting lost.” These are questions that Brock McCann asked his mom, Bernardette a week before the unimaginable happened. On May 25, 2016; Brock was riding his bike home from school at Newport Heights Elementary when he was struck and killed by a garbage truck. Without her cell phone that day, Bernardette returned home from tutoring with her other son, Jack, and was notified of the news. “Where’s my child?” she asked. ”It was then that my husband told me Brock was gone. I remember dropping to my knees on the floor. As a wife and mother, I wanted to know everything, to blame even. My humanness wanted. That’s when God stepped in and said, ‘there is nothing to be gained there’. There were two people still here, still alive. I had to be about them,” Bernardette recounted. Immediately, she left for the scene to be with her son, only to find the area taped off and covered with law enforcement. “They told me I couldn’t go in. I argued with the police and firemen about letting me see my son. I needed to be with him.” Remembering Brock’s words, Bernardette urged them, “He needs to know how to find the way. He was afraid and I’m his mother.” It wasn’t until a priest and two firemen from the emergency response team approached her that her urgency was calmed, “The priest promised me that if I let him be physically with Brock instead, he would not leave him.” With this reassurance, Bernardette left the scene and made her way to St. Andrew’s. “We went back to the Chapel,” says Bernadette, “there were probably 10 or 15 of us. I felt like we prayed him into heaven that day, so that he could find that right door, whatever that looks like. Without that support, I don’t think I could have left the scene. I don’t know how Mary did it at the foot of the cross. I couldn’t leave him to be alone. But knowing that we, as a body of Christ, worked together, guiding him, I know that he wasn’t alone in spirit. We were all there with him.”
That night, there were 200 to 250 people in and out of their house. “I was calm and peaceful and able to receive all of the comfort and support of everybody that came,” says Bernadette. “It was all the prayers. It’s the peace that cannot be explained, and the groundedness in knowing that Brock was with God. That was the gift from our community that shielded me from the doubt. Because of that support, I could rest in the arms of the community. They were a village that held me and our family in that spiritual place, giving us love and grace and strength.” The support continued and never stopped. “Through the days and months that followed and even today, people tell us they’re praying for us. I know that to be true because we’re getting out of bed. We’re functioning. If it were up to us, we wouldn’t be.” Bernardette tells of people showing up with a word or a meal, bringing books or encouraging her with a Bible study. She tells of a physical and spiritual embrace from people who were invested in their family. “The depth of people at St. Andrew’s is amazing,” says Bernadette. “There are layers of community that carry you when you’re ready to break and when you need to break. All along this journey, the church has been where I’m drawn to as a firmament for my faith.”
Brock McCann’s life was full of laughter, fun, family, and a love for art, football, cartoon monsters, and Ray Charles. “He was a really special and old soul in so many different ways,” remembers Bernardette. This infectious joy and bold personality are part of what makes Brock’s life unforgettable. While Bernadette, Murphy, and brother Jack were left to cope, they still found ways to celebrate Brock’s life. “Everyone’s relationship with death is different. If a death is over time, you have the time to value that relationship even more. If a death is sudden, you value the moments. Our triumph is in the living.”
It is in the sharing of life together that a community is built – in both the triumphs and the tragedies. The family’s home still has a small garden that Brock and Jack planted together, which is thriving. Bernadette hopes that good will arise out of this situation, and that it leads to loving one another more deeply. “We hope that somehow, whatever we’ve done or learned on our journey, is somehow comforting, or leading, or mentoring to others,” she says. “God’s economy is so magnificent. Our biggest calling is to show God to those we love the most, who are the closest to us. If we can’t show His love to these people in our lives, then who can we?”
It is in true community that we encounter God and are able to represent Him to others. The McCann’s story inspires us to submit fully to God while looking forward to the good He promises to craft from our experiences.
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