By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 8, 2019
The last walk I took with my husband was on the beach on a summer morning almost four years ago. I recall that Jef was troubled about something and I said, “Sometimes there’s no way through it except through it.”
For me this meant that sometimes we must step into the fire and get it over with, instead of seeking alternative routes that might save us pain.
I didn’t realize it, but he would die three days after our walk and I’d soon discover there is no way to circumvent the ravaging pain of grief.
There’d be nothing to do but walk directly into the fire and hope that one day I’d reach the other side.
My nephew recently lost his grown son, and now he has stepped into that terrible fire of sorrow. He and his wife are facing the tragedy together, and he has said to me, “I don’t know how you did it alone.”
It’s true that I was alone in the house my husband and I had lived in for more than three decades. True that I still awakened each morning expecting to see him next to me. True that I wept at Mass during the sign of peace when he wasn’t there.
But in a mysterious way that can’t be grasped by reason, I really wasn’t alone.
After all, Jesus knew the agony of loneliness because he’d walked with his friends into the garden, where he implored them to pray with him, but they fell asleep, leaving him to face his terrors without them.
He knew the heartache of abandonment because when the soldiers came for him, his friends fled. When he stood before Pilate, no one stood up to testify in his favor and when the crowd screamed “Crucify him,” no one objected.
We’re taught that Jesus died for our sins, which perplexed me as a child, because I knew he’d died long ago, so how could my misdeeds hurt him?
My confusion came from seeing time as moving in a linear direction from past to present to future.
But Christ on the cross was tormented by all the world’s sins and suffering, which included all the future wars, the genocides, the murders, the dying children, the grieving parents and spouses, the weeping and wailing of the entire human race forever.
As Gerald Vann writes: “On the Cross Christ had knowledge of every suffering that was to come after; and was involved in it since he was suffering in order to heal or transform it; and so was sharing it and offering it to his Father, together with his own suffering, for the renewal of the world.”
This means that Christ knew about my grief, just as he knew about my nephew’s agonizing loss of his son. He knew about every person who would have “no way through it except through it” and would walk into the flames hoping to emerge transformed.
People say time heals all wounds, but Christ still bore his wounds after he was resurrected, just as those who lose a spouse or a child will carry those wounds forever, and never be the same.
It will not just be suffering that changes them, but also a different encounter with Christ.
You see, even if we feel alone as we walk through the fire, Christ is there beside us, enduring and entering into our pain, and taking us to the other side. And we have lived the truth of his promise, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Artwork by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.