Watching grandfather struggle not only physically but also spiritually in his last days on earth was incredibly painful. But something happened when my grandpa finally expired. I gave him a kiss on his cheek and said through tears, “I’ll see you again someday, Grandpa.”
At his funeral, I was perplexed to find that my heart was full of joy and song. It seemed as if his funeral Mass were a celebration of life — eternal life — rather than a ritual meant to suggest sorrow.
By Faith, I Knew
I missed my grandfather. Grandpa’s life hadn’t been all roses. He certainly had many faults. But his death was a profound example to me of God’s incredible mercy for those of us who turn to Him, day after day — through our sobs and desperation and fear — knowing that this “handing over” of our wounds to Him actually heals. I knew, by way of obscure faith, that he was at least in Purgatory and would one day see the beatific vision in Heaven.
“By His stripes you are healed.” Wounds heal and joy mingles with sorrow. Grief is not dark when it is transformed by love; that is, by God, who is love. It is in the act of our will, our decision to hand over each and every aspect of our cross so that the suffering becomes changed into the yoke that it is easy and the burden that is light (Mt 11:30).
It’s not necessarily that the cross will be eliminated. It’s that the very act of transferring our pain to God’s divine providence becomes a form of courage, of true charity.
Dark But Lovely
A few years ago I was meditating on the verse from Song of Songs that says, “I am dark but lovely” (1:5). Perhaps grief does feel like the night, as it must have to Jesus when He was tormented in the Garden of Gethsemane — alone, asking that His Father would let the cup pass from Him. Though the Father didn’t grant Him this prayer, He did send an angel who would strengthen and console Him.
Perhaps grief feels dark because it is so vast. Why did grandpa struggle? Why did he suffer, and we suffer as we sat with him? I don’t know. We are asked to trust and walk by faith.
No matter how black your grief may seem now, you have hints of the answer, in the snippets and snapshots of beauty and blessings you see every day. In the midst of what you don’t understand and may never know, this side of Heaven is precisely the gift that will strengthen and console you. It is dark but lovely.
Jeannie Ewing writes about the hidden value of suffering and discovering joy in the midst of grief. Her latest book is For Those Who Grieve. A disability advocate, she shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters. She is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several Catholic magazines, including Catholic Exchange. She, her husband, and three daughters live in northern Indiana. For more information, see her website.
The photo is “Evening (Moon, Venus, Jupiter)” taken by Nanamori and used through a Creative Commons License.