'White Christmas' and the Wonderboy

By  Harry McAvoy, Catholic Register Special
  • December 18, 2006

When most people think of the song "White Christmas" they think of Bing Crosby or the 1942 musical Holiday Inn. I think of a cold night in 1976 when I was walking in the snow with my good friend Frank. As we walked we tried to remember the lyrics of various Christmas songs. The one song where we both knew more than a few words was "White Christmas." I remember filling the streets with our not so melodious sounds and lots of laughter.

I thought of Frank as the "Wonderboy." He was good looking and popular with the girls. He was smart, a track star and he could be wonderfully entertaining. Frank seemed to have it all.

It was hard not to be envious of Frank. Until one day when I was visiting him at his home. We were hanging out in his bedroom listening to some music. As we prepared to leave his house, Frank's mother met us in the hallway. I was momentarily taken aback. I stared at a women who appeared much older than her years. Frank did a quick introduction and got us out of his house as fast as he could. As we walked, Frank explained in a sombre voice that his mother was an alcoholic and that made life difficult for him and his family.

Frank and I remained good friends for years until we had a foolish falling out. Occasionally I would get updates about Frank from friends. Sadly, the Wonderboy had been battling with alcohol himself, but in Frank's case he also struggled with drugs.

A few years later, a friend phoned me with horrible news. "Do you remember Frank?" Of course, I responded. "On the radio, I heard about a man with Frank's name, who last night committed a murder suicide." I turned on the news and heard the same headline with the heartbreaking details. Frank had met a tragic end and had taken another life with him. It was suspected he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

I am sure for everyone hearing the news, Frank was like a monster. Certainly what he did was terrible, but what he did wasn't who he was. Booze and drugs had gotten a stranglehold on Frank's young life and they were a fatal combination from which he couldn't break free.

At the time of Frank's death I asked a friend who was a priest whether it was OK to pray for Frank, considering what he had done. He gently chided me, pointing out that only God can judge. He said we didn't know what was in Frank's mind and heart when he committed the horrific crime, but that God did, and God loves Frank. He added that one of the great gifts of our Catholic faith is that we are encouraged to pray for those who have died. Father's words gave me hope.

As I have grown in my faith, I have come to understand purgatory as a purification that prepares those in a state of grace to enter into Heaven. I now know that I can help those in purgatory with my prayers, offering up my suffering and remembering them during Mass. For many years I was casual about remembering the departed. More recently I have prepared a written list of all those I am praying for. I no longer race over names leaving no time to remember. I now pray with purpose, and when moved to do so, I say extra prayers for particular individuals.

Frank's name is on my list, as are the names of Frank's mother and the woman who died on that terrible night. I make no distinction in terms of how they lived their lives or how their lives ended. I leave the judging to God. God created them, Jesus died for them and now I have the blessed opportunity to pray for them. Till this day, when I hear "White Christmas," I say a few extra prayers for the Wonderboy.

(McAvoy is a Toronto area freelance writer who specializes in family issues.)

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.