Continuing in the spirit of Easter, I have been given a precious opportunity recently to again reflect on the profound meaning of Christ's resurrection made known in everyday life, thanks to the vulnerable and courageous sharing of a woman who came to meet with me in counselling to process her experience of grief. I could not have known what she was about to share and how it would resonate deeply with my own lived experience of grief. As she shared her story, it was clear that the common thread for us both was the loss of a loved one and the birth of a child within a very close time frame. Of course I'm not proposing that each person's experience of loss and grief are the same, but there was a similarity that rang true for me and led me to further reflection.
Six and a half years ago my husband and I were overjoyed to welcome our first child into the world. One week later I received news of the sudden and unexpected death of a very close friend, a woman who had been like a second mother to me, a kindred spirit, mentor, friend and confidant - her name was Stella. I found myself thrown into a mix of emotions - deep sadness, and yet also deep gratitude and joy. Deep gratitude and joy both for the miracle and gift of life that I and my husband had just experienced as well as an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life of my friend/mother/sister, Stella, who had meant so much to me for so many years. But the gratitude and joy couldn't erase the reality of grieving the fact that Stella had not been able to meet our first child, wasn't able to hold her, to coo at her and watch her grow into the beautiful young girl she is today and who she will become. And our daughter won't know, personally, the warmth, beauty and grace of the woman that Stella was.
Many times in life we must hold conflicting experiences in the balance at the same time, unsure of how to manage and care for it all.
I find solace and encouraged in the reminder from the passage in Ecclesiastes:
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven -
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted...
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 2, & 4; NASB)."
This isn't to say that we need to minimize or deny our grief for the sake of 'being strong' or 'putting on a brave face' or feeling that grief and faith somehow cannot go hand in hand.
When I think of Mother Mary or the disciples at the time of Jesus' death, there is no doubt that their grief was palpable.
Likely you, or someone you know well has found themselves in a moment of such grief and loss; intimately encountering human mortality. Often, what we or others need most in these circumstances is a warm, steady, compassionate presence. Sometimes words aren't even necessary. We can show Christ's love not only in speaking Christ's love, but through being Christ's love.
Because we live by the same resurrection power as was the case at the time of Jesus' death and resurrection, we have been given the promise of new life...not only after this life on earth, but also during this life on earth.
This is the definition of Paschal Mystery in the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"Christ's work of redemption accomplished principally by his Passion, death, Resurrection, and glorious Ascension, whereby "dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life" (1067; cf. 654).
Recommended Websites for Resources and Professional Development Opportunities:
A powerful music video from Contemporary Christian music artist, Toby Mac, that would be appropriate for late elementary school and teenage audiences that addresses the idea of death and life in how we treat others is called "You Speak Life" and can be found on YouTube.
|TobyMac - Speak Life
I leave you with these final words from Pope Francis in his letter 'Evangelii Gaudium' - The Joy of the Gospel.
"Whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. ...With a tenderness that never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. (3)"