As twilight makes a rainbow robe
From the concealed colors of the day
In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of the night,
May we lose no one we love
From the shelter of our hearts.
When we love another heart
And allow it to love us
We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels.
May we have the grace to see
Despite the hurt of rupture,
The searing of anger,
And the empty disappointment,
That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.
Though a door may be closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inherit;
Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space.
-John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us
This was one of those weeks here.
One of those weeks where the parent of a teenager dies, and my daughter helps to hold that friend up, while grieving and tears and sadness swirl around them all.
It’s happened before.
The first time, the father of one of her friends was killed in a car accident. A couple of weeks later, a guy lost his mother to brain cancer. Another time, a girl in her class watched her kid sister die of brain cancer. A few weeks ago, a young man whose father committed suicide a few years back decided to take his own life. This week, the dad died of a heart attack.
These are the times when people ask God, “Why? Why is this happening?” And these are the times when, sometimes, God’s answer is so unclear.
Why do we suffer? Why do kids who haven’t even graduated from high school lose their parents? Why do these tragedies happen?
From my perspective, as I watch these teenagers go through some of the most difficult moments that they will face in their lives, I have become profoundly aware that these experiences are changing them.
The night of the viewing, a close-knit group of Katie’s friends stood in line for over two hours. As adults, we all know how this can be. People talking in hushed tones around us. As we get closer to the casket, the raw emotion of the family who has lost someone. The awkwardness of not knowing what to say, even though we have all been on the receiving end before.
The day of the funeral, my daughter waited for the mass to start in a pew next to the girl whose father died in a car accident. I’m sure that thoughts of that funeral 12 months ago were forefront in their minds. When the opening song began to play, it was the same song they had heard a year ago, “Be Not Afraid.”
These are moments that change us. These are moments that, like it or not, make us holy men and women. Or teenagers, as is the case for my daughter, many times over, these past couple of years.
These are moments where our faith can be strengthened or lost. Our understanding of suffering can be profound. Our human bonds are transformed. Our commitment to those relationships that have changed because of death are magnified. Our hope in resurrection can be questioned, and then, in the end, sustained.
And though we may not ever truly understand why, in our deepest souls. we come to know, through these holy experiences, that God is good.
This Holy Week, I pray for all those touched by deaths that don’t seem to make any sense. That the grieving in our midst know God’s grace. And that they hope in the resurrection that is to come.
I invite you to do the same.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson