However much you’re braced, however much you’ve thought, however much…you’re. Never. Ready.
I was getting ready for Mass when the call came. And I didn’t even think about the fact that I was (a) going to miss Palm Sunday Mass or (b) that I was wearing red or (c) that it was the feast of the Annunciation.
I just did.
There’s comfort in action. Knowing you can do. I mean, isn’t that how we live these days? We do, until we fall over in exhaustion and can grab a few winks before we do some more.
I’ve been journeying, this Lent, with Cardinal Sarah’s volume The Power of Silence. In fact, my goal was to be finished by the end of Lent, and on the cusp of Holy Week, I was seeing just what Lent prepared me for this year.
“The choice of silence is therefore a gift for humanity,” Cardinal Sarah writes. “The men and women who enter into the silence offer themselves as a holocaust for their brethren.”
There’s been more silence this Lent, and I’d like to say it’s been intentional. But maybe it’s just been. That’s OK. There’s been a lesson in the silence, a listening and a yearning and a waiting.
I haven’t known what I’m waiting for. For Easter? For noise? For…for what?
Was I waiting for this call?
No, I wasn’t.
Because I am selfish. And I did not ever want to get this call. I did not want to hold the clawed hand and rub the papery thin skin of her arm and watch her blink as the mask kept her breathing.
Birth is hard. It’s a journey and a process and it inspires all kinds of prayer and thought.
Death is also hard, in many of the same ways.
I’ve experienced many aspects of death, but I have never before been at the side, watched the very end.
On the hours-long drive, in a van devoid of small noisemakers, I rode in silence. And then I felt that I had to pray.
It was one of those times when I found myself grasping at the words I already had, because my emotions were so…unspeakable. Words were too limiting, so I grasped the hand held out in the rosary, and I prayed. I rode the comfort and the rhythm and the silent beauty of it.
I prayed Divine Mercy Chaplets and rosaries and I felt like the only noise I needed was the sound of the air around, the car noises, the sunshine.
I’ve heard that tears are a gift, and in a room where everyone’s eyes are red and yours are dry, I can concede that they may just be. At the end, when the woman who was, perhaps, the greatest impact on my life took her last breath and only her body remained, my eyes were dry.
She was still there. And yet, she was not.
What had just happened?
“Our words inebriate us; they confine us to what is created. Bewitched and imprisoned by the noise of human speech, we run the risk of designing worship to our specifications, a god in our own image. Words bring with them the temptation of the golden calf! Only silence leads man beyond words, to the mystery, to worship in spirit and in truth. Silence is a form of mystagogy; it brings us into the mystery without spoiling it.”
Was Cardinal Sarah talking about death? About life?
On the drive home, another long series of hours, in which I embraced the silence and paused at a favorite shrine to kneel and, finally, feel a few drops from my eyes. I found myself leaning into the silence once more.
It was a gift.
Was she there? Will she be there? Am I looking for her?
I shouldn’t be. She is not there. She has moved on.
But I am here. And God, waiting beside me, journeying through what’s left of this Lent with me, carrying me and my cross.
It’s not unjust that she went home. It’s a gift that someday, I hope to see her again.
Eternal rest grant unto her, Oh Lord, and thank you for the gift of her life.