A Prayer for Difficult Moments

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'I Leave It in His Hands'

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This article first appeared in the Summer issue of Marian Helper magazine. Receive a free copy.

By Melanie Williams

"The sun could have not risen that day and it would have been less surprising than what actually happened." Sammie Wood, a mother of three, homemaker, and cattle rancher from Clayton, New Mexico, spoke through tears as she recalled the events of Aug. 10, 2014.

The night before, a Saturday, Sammie, her husband, and her daughter Clare, 17, went to Mass. Afterwards Clare, her youngest, went to a dance before the start of her senior year of high school.

Tall, slender, beautiful, and fun-loving, Clare valued laughter, friendship, and faith. She often would dance and sing around the kitchen with her mom and two siblings. She played volleyball, and was a cheerleader and National Honor Society member. She would tell people she would pray for them. She loved the Lord and wrote little notes to herself that said things like, "Make God loved."

She was no saint. She did many, many good things and also made mistakes. For her Confirmation saint, after much research, she chose St. Margaret Cortona, famously willful.

That Sunday morning, Sammie went to Clare's bedroom to check in and to snuggle. She asked her how the dance went. Clare wasn't too responsive. She didn't want to talk. She said she was tired. Sammie held her for a moment, then, as she did every morning, she took her rosary beads with a relic of St. Faustina and went for a walk to pray the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy for her daily intention of praying for someone who would die that day.

When Sammie returned home, Clare was up and asked her, "Mamma, where were you?"

"Out for my morning Rosary and Chaplet, praying for someone who will die today," Sammie said.

The sunny New Mexico morning turned uncharacteristically overcast. Chip, Sammie's husband, grilled steaks outside for lunch, but the foul weather drove the family inside. Sammie and Chip eventually settled in to watch a golf match as Sammie worked on a needlepoint Christmas stocking. Clare settled in another room to watch a different program. At one point, Sammie checked in on her. She knelt beside her and asked her if she wanted to join them. Clare still seemed despondent, and she declined, saying she didn't really like watching golf.

Before leaving her be, Sammie leaned in and told Clare she knew that returning to school for the fall semester wouldn't be easy, with all of the preparation Clare needed to do for college. But Sammie told Clare that she loved her, and Sammie blessed her. She made the Sign of the Cross on her daughter's forehead. That was the last time Sammie saw her baby girl alive.

Clouds continued to roll in across the high plains when Chip and Sammie heard what sounded like a sharp "pop" coming from outside. They figured it was weather-related. But minutes later, Sammie's father rushed into the house screaming, "Clare shot herself! Clare's dead!"

Sammie's parents live on the family ranch, in a house close to the barn. They had heard the gunshot. Clare had driven her car up to the barn, stepped out onto the cement apron, and taken her own life. She was wearing her scapular, which was not typical. She had left a note in her car that read, "I love you guys so much. Please forgive me. I'm so sorry."

As Sammie and Chip came upon their daughter's lifeless body, the skies began to pour. They carried her body inside the barn for shelter and called 911. The Wood family lives 33 miles away from the nearest town. The emergency responders took three hours to get there.

All the while, as family gathered at the ranch to mourn, Sammie embraced her daughter's body. She wailed, wept, and prayed.

The Woods would eventually discover that Clare had been having trouble with girls at school and was a victim of cyberbullying.

She had shared with her sister that a fellow volleyball teammate's ex-boyfriend was romantically interested in her, and though Clare wasn't interested in him, some girls in her class were giving her a hard time about it all.

The Woods also would learn that at the dance the night before, the boy had asked Clare to dance. They were seen kissing on the dance floor. Clare was upset with herself that she had allowed that to happen and wanted to call and apologize to her teammate, but the girl and some others had already started talking about it. In a small town, in a class of 50 people, gossip and rumors spread like wildfire.

"I never saw anything in Clare that I thought was unusual," Sammie said. "She was a typical teenager. But the day Clare died, she was going through the 'perfect storm' in her mind to cause her to take her own life."

Clare also suffered from extreme eczema, asthma, and allergies, for which she was on medication. Sammie later found out that the medication can have a serious side effect — suicidal thoughts.

Sammie immediately turned to the Blessed Mother, who knows as well as anyone what it's like to lose a child.

"The night Clare died, of course I didn't sleep much — tossing, turning, weeping, pacing," Sammie recalled. "We have a big window in our living room with rocking chairs in front of it. In the early morning hours, I got up and went to sit in one of those chairs. The skies had cleared, and it was the night of the big 'honey moon.' The moon was huge in that big window. As many people say, I believe the moon stands for Our Blessed Mother — reflecting the light of her Son. I believe she was silently keeping vigil with me — praying and standing with me."

At the funeral, many students approached Sammie to tell her that Clare had helped them through difficult times, including deep depression. Some shared that Clare had protected them from bullying.

Sammie racked her brain for days and months trying to make sense of it all. Had she missed something? Did she somehow give Clare "permission" to kill herself by telling her that her daily prayer intention was for someone who would die that day?

Why didn't God save her daughter? Why didn't He show her what Clare was going through? Why did she go out to pray instead of staying at home when she saw that her daughter was downcast? But she came to realize that she would never understand all of the "whys," and even if she did, it would still never make sense to her or be enough of a reason for her daughter to have done what she did.

Seeking help and support in her grief, Sammie looked in her parish and in her Catholic faith, but could not find any specific program or ministry that could help her.

"I knew the devil wanted to use this to annihilate my family," Sammie said, "but I refused to let that happen."

Two months after Clare's death, Sammie took one of the notebooks that she had bought Clare for school and began to record suitable passages from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and quotes from saints who had made it through hard times. This notebook has become the makings of her new life's mission — to create a Catholic grief ministry program that can spread from parish to parish so that no one would have to grieve alone.

In the meantime, Sammie, her friends, and her family have offered hundreds of Masses for the repose of Clare's soul. Sammie wants others to know the importance of praying for the souls in Purgatory.

"People need to remember to pray for their loved ones who have passed," she said. "Don't just assume they went to Heaven."

One night about six months after Clare died, Sammie begged her "Clara" to come to her in a dream and let her know that she was OK. She needed a sign.

That night, Sammie couldn't sleep. She walked around the house most of the night. Not until the early morning hours did she finally fall asleep — and she got her sign. She dreamed she was in a big hotel. Two girls were playing inside a gift shop and trying very hard to make her laugh. She laughed and smiled at them. She couldn't see their faces because they had donned masks and feathers from the gift store to cover their faces. At one point, though, the girls exchanged masks, and Sammie saw that one of the girls was Clare. She ran up to her and called her name and kissed her on the cheek. Clare had a huge smile. She took Sammie by the arm and led her down a hallway.

In the dream, Clare said, "I have to get back now, Mom. I have to get back!"

Sammie replied, "Clare, why do you have to get back?"

"I've tasted everything here, Mom," she responded, "and everything tastes so much sweeter there. I've done everything here, Mom, and everything's so much greater there."

Sammie said, "What's so great there, Clare?"

She said, "I gaze on the beauty of God."

At that moment, Sammie's alarm went off, and she awoke. This dream brought great consolation to Sammie, and she even wondered if the other girl was the baby she had miscarried before having Clare.

Since then, Sammie's journey has been one of healing and forgiveness.

"I don't seek out the girls who bullied my daughter," she said, "but I do forgive them, and I pray and sacrifice for them so that their lives go well and they be good and holy young women."

Forgiveness, she said, is a process that sometimes requires a bending of her will.

"Eventually the bending of your will softens your heart," she said, "and forgiving becomes much easier."

Even more difficult, though, has been forgiving herself. Even today she still struggles with guilt. "She was my baby," said Sammie. "There are days when I scream out into the air, 'Clare, please forgive me!' I pray to the Blessed Mother to lend me her hope, her trust, and her faith."

She said, "The future is hard, but I stay close to Jesus and the Blessed Mother, and I feel closer to Clare now more than ever before. I'm a simple woman, I don't have much to offer, but I don't want anyone to have to grieve alone or turn to other things like mediums or 'seers' or anything else. In our Catholic faith, we have redemptive suffering, the saints, the Blessed Mother, the Eucharist. These are what can bring us through anything in life, even the most difficult times."

Her other children, Sally and Gus, have been tremendously helpful in reminding her that she is, and always has been, a good mother. Sammie continues to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day for Clare.

"I know that God is outside of time and space," she said. "I know He can apply graces from my prayers to the moment of her death. I leave it in His hands, knowing that mercy is His greatest attribute. I know He loves Clare infinitely more than I am capable of. I trust that my God has Clare in His loving care. As St. Faustina taught us, our words have to be 'Jesus, I trust in You'!"

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Idalia - Jul 4, 2020

Mrs. Wood, thank you for sharing your daughter Clare's story, which i read in the book "After Suicide". When my best friend took his own life in February of this year, i felt the pain and lifelong questions that a suicide brings to those of us left behind. My heart goes out to you, as it does to my friend's mother, who found him. Being a mother myself to a 9 year old girl, the pain of losing a child in the way you lost your lovely daughter seems to me so unbearable without the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and the Divine Mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to you because I had a very clear sense, while reading about Clare, of several things. That she was a very good and pure soul, as you surely know, and also a clear sense that she regretted what she did almost instantly, realizing that the problems that fogged her thinking would not have been permanent, and how the finality of her decision would hurt so many people. I truly believe she is in Heaven and now prays for you and with you and for those who suffer bullying and consider or commit suicide as a way out, and for their friends and families. Your strength in the Lord is inspirational, and i know it is what has sustained you and will continue to sustain you and bring much hope to others like me. I know your faith and constant prayer helped Clare's soul much more than we can understand, and that Clare and your prayers now help others. One big question that comes up often for me is whether I will ever see my friend again. For some reason, after reading your story, I feel much more hopeful that i will see him again. I think this is because of the clear sense i got that Clare is in heaven and is still herself- i guess i used to believe that we became so different-so beyond the human after we die. That even though our souls do in fact go on, as i know without a doubt, that those souls somehow meld into infinity and forget their past humanity. Now i have this definite feeling that this is not how i think it is. Again i want to thank you and wish you well.

Jennifer Paul - Jul 7, 2017

Thank you Sammie for sharing your story, we also lost our son Matt 4 years ago to suicide at the age of 26. Our family was knocked to our knees, and our journey sounds quite the same as yours. We, like you, have found so much support from our wonderful priest, our parish and our friends and family. We have found so much strength in Our Lady, and I feel God catch me every time I start to fall into despair. I have vivid dreams about our son too, and I believe they are real and they bring me comfort. Thank you for reminding us we aren't alone.

Dcn. Gabriel, MIC - Jul 1, 2017

Dear Sammie and Wood Family,
I read your article in the MH Magazine. I have prayed for you all. Our love is with you. May God bring forth more good out of your tremendous pain. God bless you and Mother Mary keep you under her mantle,
Dcn. Gabriel

Sammie Wood - Jun 29, 2017

Thank all of you for your kind words and especially your prayers for Clare and for us. My heart goes out to each of you who has lost a child, a spouse or family member. I will pray for you, too and for your loved ones. I pray the Blessed 'Mother comfort you as she stays so near to all of us who call upon her.

For those concerned about their children, my heart goes out to you as well. I will pray for your children and Clare will pray for them. Ask her. Thanks be to God we can count on the prayers of those who have gone before us. None of us know the future and none of us are in control but we serve the God who IS in control. He will give us the grace, the courage and the strength to get through if we stay close to Him. May God hold you all so closely to His heart!

Thank you all again. God bless you and your families.

Tricia - Jun 28, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story! I pray for souls in purgatory a lot too. I have fear of this happening to my last child. I've been trying to give this fear over to the Lord. I pray for my, youngest child, a 15 yr old daughter a lot. Bullying concerns me so much. Yet all I see is Sammie did everything and more that a mother could do for a child to get them to heaven. Teaching her the Catholic faith, teaching her prayer and even making a blessing over her, and many more things I'm sure. Plus having a loving relationship with her. I cry with Sammie and ask God what more do you want from me as a mother who is trying the best I can. Praying hard, trying to trust God's plan for me and my children and yet this can happen. It is out of my control. Only God is in charge. I can only continue to seek His love and face and have trust that I am doing His will.
Eternal Rest grant unto Clare, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. By the mercy of God may her soul Rest In Peace. May God give peace to Sammie and continue to shower His love on her. Amen!

Mary - Jun 28, 2017

We have gone through the loss of our only son at the age of 21 early this year and at first it felt almost natural to blame God, but just like you I realised that this is what the Devil would want and I came to believe that God called our son for a reason, we weren't very prayerful and went to mass weekly out of habit, but now we say the rosary every night, usually St Gertrude's for the holy souls. We devoted the month of May to Our Lady and the divine Mercy novena after Easter. This has given our family so much comfort. It is lovely to hear of your beautiful daughter coming to you in a dream and to know that she is now with God our father, of course we would like our children to be here with us but life is short and eternity is forever. Thankyou for sharing the story of your beloved daughter, it has given this grieving mother great comfort.

Marie - Jun 28, 2017

God rest Claire's soul. She sounded beautiful. I admire you Sammie for your courage and strength to persevere in your faith. I know this is what the Lord and Mother Mary wants of us. Can I please ask everyone who reads this to pray for my daughter who is struggling with depression. Although she tries to camouflage it, some of us are not fooled by it. She is a loving person who would do anything for you, yet her mind does not allow her to think of "reasoning". She has never mentioned about suicide, but I fear because of her friends that live in another town where she keeps moving back and forth from are not a good influence. My heart does not trust them as they are not godly. My daughter does not come to Mass anymore. My husband does not either which does not help. I am basically alone in my household. I don't have other children. My extended family are not church goers and does not understand my love for God and Holy Mother Church. Yet, I am struggling this time around with her decision to move away again. She is not financially stable and we cannot help financially that much either. So,my heart is unsettled. Perhaps God is allowing all this for His greater glory and He will show me at the end but in the meantime, I pray that things change. Please pray! Thank you. God bless!

Nwabude Nwamaka - Jun 28, 2017

Eternal rest grant unto Clare O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her, amen. Most merciful Lord, pls grant her mum the fortitude to bear such painful lost.Also remember other members of her family,amen.

Mai - Jun 28, 2017

I am in the same boat. I lost my husband recently and though my faith is strong & know that it is God's will, I still have the why's bugging me. I pray that God and Mama Mary will give me more strength to carry on and be there for our son. Our 25 yr old son has been supportive from day one. May we all find refuge in Jesus' loving care and Mother Mary's protective cloak.

brendan - Jun 25, 2017

I would recommend Gregorian Masses for Clare's immortal soul, preferably by the Carthusians, an Order very, very close to Our Lord's Eternal and Sacred heart. You could contact any Charterhouse, such as the Vermont one, which they discuss on their Charterhouse of Transfiguration website.

I pray quite often for souls who have committed suicide and entrust them to the Stylite Saints, several of whom are canonized, and countless numbers known only to Our Lord. Living and suffering on the high pillars for endless years, tempted to jump off, tempted to end it all, these Saints have deep compassion for souls who have committed suicide. These saints accumulated substantial merit, which they can share with any soul they wish, and have sway before Our Lord. I also pray to Saint Seraphim of Sarov for these souls, because he understood the deep and pervading peace of the Holy Spirit, which we all need.

I also pray to Saint Kateri, and since she had a facial disfigurement, she understands the pain and suffering Clare experienced due her skin problem.

The prayers of the child martyrs and the holy brides of Christ really touch the heart of Our Lord.

And one cannot go wrong, asking for Mary or Saint Joseph's intercession.

I will pray for Clare.

Christ suffered and died for Clare in His Passion, and while in her Passion, I will pray, that Mary and the holy saints and angels came to her and the Wounded and Suffering Christ, who saw Himself in Clare.

May God's holy peace always sustain us all. Amen.

Sammie Wood - Jun 24, 2017

Thank you for the prayers. God' tremendous grace and the prayers of so many like all of you, hold us up.

Please pray for all of the Marian Helpers and the priests of this Marian Shrine. They do such good and important work. May God continue to richly bless them.

Brenda Lee Allor - Jun 24, 2017

I am praying for you Ms. Sammie and your family. May God continue to bring you all strength and comfort. I am praying for those that bullied your daughter, Clare.

David Walford - Jun 23, 2017

I cannot imagine the pain your have gone through or will still go through. I will remember your family and Clare in my prayers and know that one day the Lord and King will wipe away those tears forever. Most Holy Mother Mary bring the peace of Jesus your Son to this family.