From: The Way of the Cross
What is worse than the actual event of death is the awareness of the degree of loss that comes with it. Simply announcing that someone has had “a peaceful death” does nothing to damp the pain of it. When the death is a violent one, the deprivation – the sense of having been able to do nothing to have stopped the pain – burrows down into the center of the soul dark and endless.
Violent death, natural or not, haunts us at night and plagues us during the day. It stops time at the moment before the loss. It suspends us in an orbit of pain. Now what?
What can possibly fix the lives that are left to mourn the dead who die out of time and at the hands of the uncaring, the indifferent, the institutionalized lackeys of the system?
Entire lives of multiple people can become disoriented by the loss of a loved one. Death is about far more than simply the life of the deceased. It marks in every life the moment after which nothing else is ever quite the same. In some cases, a whole system, an otherwise strong network of friends, can disintegrate without so much as a moment’s notice after the death of the leader, the glue, the cement of the group.
The question now becomes, How is it possible to go on alone? How is it possible to compensate for, let alone replace, what has been lost? What is now denied the lives of those whose own life depended on the deceased in ways far beyond the economic, far beyond the mere matter of getting through the day, is not only irreplaceable, it is paralyzing. It is enough to stop the natural flow of life completely.
And then, too, what about the person whose life has been cut off, like black twine in dark night? What about the dead dream that can never now be completed? What happens to those who dreamed it together or trusted in its coming, whatever it was?
These are empty times for everyone. These are times that crush spirits and stop hearts, abort plans and blur visions deeply. Life hollows out, one way or another, for everyone concerned.
These are times that stretch faith in life to the break point. These moments suspend time for everyone.
The call to us at a time when great pieces of the future crumble in life is not so much to faith as it is to hope. Depression is the seedbed of hopelessness, the loss of surety that life must still somehow be full of good, however impossible it is to remember it, to see it, to trust it at this moment.
Hope does not tell us that soon life will be the same again as it was before the loss. No, hope tells us that life will go on, differently, yes, but go on nevertheless. Hope tells us that the pieces are there for us to put together, if only we will give ourselves to the doing of it.
When Jesus dies on the cross, something entirely different rises. And that something is the call to us to make the best in life live again.
The twelfth station of the cross brings us face to face with the finality of defeat. Sometimes things don’t have a happy ending in life. They just grind on until loss becomes the new normal.
Sometimes we fail. There are things we are not suited to do, however much we want to do them. Then, valor lies in simply being willing to begin again, somewhere else.
Sometimes we’re beaten. Others are more talented, perhaps, or better prepared, or hungrier in their pursuit of the present grail than we are any longer able to be.
Sometimes we’re lost. Sometimes we’re humiliated. Sometimes we’re misunderstood.
Sometimes we are abandoned by the very people we love most in life and who we thought also loved us. At that point, without doubt, something in us dies.
Then we learn that there’s no going back to things that once were but are no more. The old breath goes out of us and all we can do is to surrender to the dark. It is not a pretty moment. It can take all the energy we have.
The question with which the twelfth station confronts us is an awesome one: Am I able to accept the daily deaths of life, both the great ones and the small, knowing that death is not the end of life, only its passing over to something new in me? Hopefully, I learn from the Jesus who gave up himself, his mission, his life in ways that all seemed totally wrong, that the deaths I died may bring new life to the world around me as well.
Death, the destroyer, is not nearly so imponderable a part of life as it may seem. At its worst, it is still an opportunity to start life anew. It is the door through which most of us will walk at least several times in life. What we do with it, drawing on the life and experiences we have had in the life before this one, is both the junction and the challenge of a lifetime. And yet it is out of the dark, wet dust of yesterday that life forever blooms.
When we take hold of life with all its deaths and all its resurrections, life becomes an eternal hotbed of creation given into the hands of the creature so that creation can go on creating.