Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace on Earth

Like most us, I am still under the spell of the tragedy in Newtown, still resonating with the remnants of communal grief. Like you the tones of it are quieter now and taking the shape of a tear or two still, but for me they are coming more in the form of sudden hugs as my five year old walks past my chair or a stunned realization and quick prayer when I fold a pint sized sock from the laundry.

I have waited to write about it. I waited until now, when most of the media has moved on, because I have only one insight to share. I waited until I am settled enough with my feelings and because anything I can say is less for those involved than it is for all of us who do or will grieve. It is simply this: give the grieving quiet. Be there, do everything you can, but don't feel you have to fill the silence with anything more than a hug, a touch, or even your shared tears. Having watched my parents grieve all my life for two gone ahead older brothers, I know that there is nothing that you or I could say or do in the face of such a tragedy or any tragedy. Those who are grieving do not grieve any less or any better by anything from us. It is more in the resonance of silence and the knowledge that our griefs are shared that comfort comes.

But sometimes not even then.

We must do what we can but do it with care. Those platitudes we speak at such times and especially online? They are nothing. They mean nothing. Sometimes they even hurt. Don't be afraid of the grieving, don't avoid doing all that you can, but don't be afraid to allow silence to sit with you when you sit with them. "I'm so sorry" or "I'll remember" is all you really ever need say because it is true. Let the half truths and false notes of our platitudes fall somewhere other than the ears of someone who can barely raise her head above her burdens.

Time does not heal such wounds. We simply need the time to gather our strength to bear the burden of life's heavier loads. Nothing like this heals.

God did not will for death. In the Garden it was not so. Our very bones know that death is not what was meant to be.

More faith and mere faith does not prevent our suffering. Mary, who knew more perfectly than you or I ever will who He is, suffered her own agony as she stood at His feet and watched that life slip away in torment and anguish, drop by precious drop. Surely no one has had more faith in the Son than His own mother?

Do not offend any such moments of ours with clumsy and heavy platitudes, be quiet instead.

If you are called to sit and grieve with those who grieve, your main task is to listen, to hold out a moment of peace in the maelstrom. We have all grieved something. We all know how it is. Grief differs only in the matter of degree. Let that be enough for you, let that be your gift, that dim understanding shining out across a dark ocean of tears. A rocky shore is near, treacherous and dark, but near enough for the drowning to seek it and come in from the wreckage if they will.

Be peace for someone in this year. Just a glimpse of peace.
That's all I really have to say here, my readers. Thank you for suffering this fool awhile. I hope this helps you because writing it has helped me some. I'll see you on the other side of Christmas. I will be spending some time with my loved ones and hope you are graced to do the same.

Merry Christmas.


  1. beautiful, and true. i have been spending so much time meditating on the joyful mysteries this advent and that has been my somewhat disconcerting revelation as well. despite a heavenly messenger assuring her she was doing His will, sitting at the feet of our Lord during his passion must have been excruciating. how could her loved ones console her? thanks for sharing...

    1. I also wonder. It's easier to comprehend it all on this side of history. I can't imagine living through that first Holy Saturday as any one of those who did, but especially as her. What agony!