by Jamie Myrose
Death finds you no matter where you are, no matter how inconvenient the timing may be, no matter how recently it last visited you. Last week, I received an email saying that a classmate of mine from high school, Abby, had passed away over the weekend in an automobile accident. A perfectly healthy college graduate dead at 23 years-old. There was no one to blame and no time to say goodbye. This was the seventh death of a loved one that I had experienced since first coming to Boston College.
Oddly enough, I ran into another girl from my high school not 30 seconds later and—in that moment—there was nothing in this world I needed more than to speak with someone else who knew her. This moment of connection would not bring Abby back, but I found solace in the acknowledgment that her life was precious and beautiful, and her absence is a great loss to the world. The rest of O’Neill Library murmured on, oblivious to the advent of our new reality.
The suffering of Jesus is rightly at the forefront of our worship, but the suffering of Mary also deserves our attention. At the hour of Jesus’ death, Mary offered him the only form of compassion that she could: her presence. She stood at the foot of the cross so that he would not have to die alone, even though it pained her tremendously to do so. Thankfully most of us will not have to suffer a death as tragic as Jesus’, but each of us is probably familiar with the feeling of helplessness in the face of our or another person’s torment. It takes a great deal of courage to enter into the suffering of another, especially when you know it will not rectify the situation. But our openness to one another is essential for fostering authentic relationships of love. The abandonment one feels in suffering in isolation is a kind of death in itself, and we are called to be a people of life.
Focusing on this topic, I would like to recommend Dorothee Sölle’s Suffering. In this work, Sölle examines the dangers of apathy in a suffering world that cries out for love. Only by sharing in another’s suffering can we save that person from a spiritual death, which would otherwise be irreversible.
Though I am sorrowful over the death of my friend, I know that there are those who are even more grief-stricken, and I am called to enter into their suffering, too. In moments when we have nothing left to give, all we can do is listen and be present to those who need us, all the time remembering that Mary knows our suffering and intercedes on our behalf. For what boy can say no to His mother?
My Mother of Sorrows
Oh my mother, what sorrow you face,
The heart of your heart lies dead in disgrace,
First a question, then its answer, now a son whom you raised,
The King of Kings of whom angels sang praise,
Simeon told you this day would come,
Innocent life for all lives ransomed,
And though you knew of this great pain,
Knowing and doing are not the same.