Friday, March 18, 2011

LOSS AND LENT (A Tribute my Brother)

St. Benedict in his Rule tells us to keep death daily before our eyes. This is not to be seen as morbid or surprising, but rather how death informs us how to appreciate life. We live in an age where we spend all our energy denying death's  existence, even after we've lost someone we love.

Last week after a very swift and painful death I lost my brother to cancer.  From diagnosis to the end was 17 days... not enough to prepare us all for the finality of his life.

Everyone grieves in different ways and it is only by being open to the feelings and emotions that grief brings out in each of us ways we can  cope, either alone or with the help of others.

I tell myself, everyone looses a brother- or someone dear to them-  but not me! I have never before lost a brother.  So this grief is new, it is mine.  My sister- in - law Angie can say: I have  never lost a husband of 48 years. My niece  and nephews can say: I have never lost a Father!  Even Jesus wept at the loss of his friend Lazarius.

“Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” (Susan Cheever) Yet grief is its own territory, separate from so-called normalcy. It is like an affliction of the spirit and not one that can be cured in any one way. So the grieving is for our own loss- but as Christians we know our father, husband, brother is beyond the pain and suffering of his life.  On a human level  this does not diminish the loss, but on a spiritual level should be our consolation.  "The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor 2:9).

I am reminded as I write this of Joan Didion's book Year of Magical Thinking, written after the deaths of her husband and daughter. She covers all the bases, including the kind of insanity that can seize one in the throes of grief, those moments when you forget the person is actually dead, when you turn to speak to him as you normally would at a certain part of the day or reach for the phone to share the latest news. Jeff and I emailed almost daily and spoke by phone often. The Community got used to his gruff voice asking for me.  Never a hello or goodbye, just a presence- as someone said: bigger than life!

Today was his funeral Mass in California but in May he will be buried on our Monastery grounds with Family and Community present.  Constantly present are the sheep, cattle and llamas- a fitting place for one so loved!
Bay pasture and cemetery

A too short life for us, but as Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “death is something beautiful: it means going home,  going home to God".