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A saintly sacrifice made in the presence of angels | The Latte Guy | Feb. 12
She is reaching out her arms tonight
And, Lord, my poverty is real
I pray roses shall rain down again
From Guadalupe on her hill
And who am I to doubt these mysteries?
Cured in centuries of blood and candle smoke
I am the least of all your pilgrims here
But I am most in need of hope
– “Guadalupe” by Tom Russell
I have long since given up hope of ever understanding the mysteries of faith.
As near as I can tell, faith exists largely as a vocabulary – mystery, hope, love, compassion, charity, kindness, sadness, redemption, candle smoke.
And we humans have all been given a crossword puzzle and invited to figure out which words among the vocabulary go into which boxes in the puzzle.
And while there are plenty of clues to guide us through the puzzle, there aren’t any black squares in the puzzle to tell us where one word ends and the next begins. And the boxes move around from time to time. In three dimensions.
So where in this puzzle do we place the story of Molly Hightower?
Molly Hightower grew up in Port Orchard, or Port Torture as it’s sometimes known. She attended Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, and graduated from the University of Portland in 2009 with a degree in French and sociology.
After graduating from college, rather than return to Port Orchard to look for a nonexistent job or go to graduate school, Molly decided to spend a year in Haiti working for Friends of the Orphans.
She worked at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, volunteering at a local hospital and working with kids with developmental disabilities. She lived in the building that housed the orphanage.
Molly loved her work in Haiti and loved the children she worked with even though one of her regular chores was to go to the hospital to see which children had died during the night.
She would then unwrap them, clean them, bless them and rewrap them for burial. Molly attended many of their funerals – more funerals than a 22-year-old Port Orchard girl should ever have had to attend.
Molly was described by her family and those who knew her as a people person, someone who gave and didn’t really worry about receiving.
She was happy to be doing something to which she was personally committed, which was showing love and compassion to discarded children in one of the world’s poorest countries.
Molly Hightower was killed on Jan. 12 when the earthquake that devastated Haiti brought down the building in which Molly and the children were living.
In announcing the discovery of Molly’s body in the rubble that is Port-au-Prince, her uncle, Father Craig Hightower, said: “This morning they lifted up my niece. She was not there. She was with our heavenly God, residing with the angels in Heaven and watching out over us.”
At a private ceremony at Molly’s high school in Tacoma, her grandfather John Tower said, “If I had anything to say about sainthood, I think I would put her name on the register.”
I don’t know what to do with Molly’s story, just as I don’t know what to think about a God who would bring a Molly Hightower into the world only to take her away so cruelly.
I understand that life is both beautiful and terribly sad, and that suffering is one of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
But none of that seems to help very much in fitting Molly’s life into the big crossword puzzle.
One thing we do know about Molly is that, thanks to her heartfelt and unselfish love for this small group of otherwise forgotten children, all of them together “may have known some tenderness before earth took them to her stony care.”
In the end, maybe that’s all we really need to know about Molly’s story.
Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.