Grieving is hard work. Today I am spending time thinking about all the people I know who died this past year and the list is long. For many of my friends who have lost spouses the grieving process is even more difficult. The paradox of a happy, long and caring marriage is that when death comes to one spouse, the other hurts even more deeply. While everyone realizes that this is natural and a testament to the love shared, it does not make it easier.
There are no easy answers, but there is a simple response, and it is the Danish mystic and former secretary general of the United Nations writing in his now famous journal, Markings, who says it best for me, "Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible - not to have run away." Not to run away is always the challenge we face when life becomes difficult, painful and confusing. To stay in the moment, to learn to welcome what comes our way, is the task of every believer and it is possible because our faith promises that Christ is always near and did not run away from his own misery and suffering. The memory of his suffering and death becomes the ground upon which we build our hope.
Jesus is also very gentle when it comes to suffering, death and the loss people feel after death. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened," he says, "and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11: 28-30) The nearer we allow the Lord to be to our suffering and loss, the more he can help make our heavy burdens light.
All Souls day is a time of sweet sorrow. Because we have made and been blessed with good friends, we are grateful, but we miss them all the more when they die and that fills us with sorrow. We can't talk with them, see them or depend upon them in the same way we have in the past. In a very real sense, we are lost, even frantic, like a child in a mall who has lost of her parents. Even more frightening, a certain level of depression is natural and necessary to grieve fully because it is only in appreciating how much we have lost that we begin to sense the light for the next part of our journey.
Today is a good time to be grateful for all those, now dead, with whom you have walked in life, and to pray for the faith that allows us to remember that they are with us still. In the words of the Preface for the Mass of Christian death: "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended."
Today, don't run away from death. Hold it gently with Christ.