Thursday, June 23, 2011

Transforming Grief into Love -- Rachel Muha Wins National Award

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

This week, Rachel Muha of Westerville, Ohio was selected as a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award recipients and designated as an "Unsung Hero" recognized for her extraordinary and selfless volunteer work in the community. I could think of no one more deserving of this honor, and I would like to share a bit more of her story here.

It's now been over a decade since I first met Rachel Muha. I was traveling around the USA with NET Ministries, and my team was going to be hosted by the Muha family for Thanksgiving. One of my teammates was a close friend of Ms. Muha's elder son Chris, and our entire team (11 hungry people!) were graciously hosted by the Muhas for our Thanksgiving holiday and break. We stayed many places with many different people during that year, but this visit is one that I will never forget.

Not only was I moved by the generosity of the Muhas to take their friend and his ten never-before-introduced teammates into their home and family, but I was especially amazed at Rachel and Chris Muha's extraordinary example of mercy and compassion. Just a year before our visit, Ms. Muha's younger son, Brian (along with one of his roommates) was brutally murdered; it was only their second Thanksgiving without Brian when they hosted our team.

It was obvious during our stay that Rachel, Chris, and their extended family (with whom we enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving meal) were still grieving, and they spoke about Brian during our visit. But somehow they transformed that pain and loss into a living witness of mercy unlike anything I've witnessed before.

I remember one story in particular that Ms. Muha shared with us. She said that, two summers before, her son Brian and his friend Aaron were going to be living off campus while they took summer classes at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Brian knew that his mom was concerned for him, as it was his first time living both away from home and not in the campus dorms. So Brian sent his mom some flowers with a little note.
Something wonderful happened on the morning of Brian's death, before we knew that he was even missing. A beautiful bouquet of white roses touched with a hint of pink arrived for Brian's mother, bearing a note from her son in his own handwriting: "Just wanted to say hello even though I'm away. Love, Bri." 
Later, when Brian and Aaron's bodies were found on a Pennsylvania hill, their heads were resting on thorns, but covered by a canopy of roses -- the same color that Brian had sent. One of the roses from that hill took root outside of the Muha's home, where they grow to this day.

Even through my brief encounter with her, I have been profoundly moved by Rachel Muha's example, especially as a merciful mother and person committed to bettering the lives of others, especially young people and children. Read more about Rachel Muha, the good work she has done, and the award she received here, and learn about the Brian Muha Memorial Foundation here.

Peace and all good,

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