Friday, July 9, 2010
Many people wonder at our courage and strength. I understand that they simply don’t understand. I know, because I used to feel the same way: How could anyone survive the death of a child? It is inconceivable. And, the fact is, we really don’t want to conceive of it. We don’t want to entertain the idea that it could happen to us. The fact that God only chooses certain people for such a trial is a sure sign of their extraordinary character...Isn’t it?
That’s not the way it works. I can’t conceive of any more loss than what I have already suffered: best friend, grandparents, sister, daughter...I know, however, if I don’t die first, other losses will mark my pilgrimage through this valley in the shadow of death. Loss is one of the naked facts we must learn to reckon with and, finally, accept. We are all losers. Jesus tried to teach us: we only gain life by losing it, letting go. We only keep the treasure we give away. It all slips through our fingers eventually; why not let it go, give it up, give it away? We spend so much of our lives trying to cling to what we cannot hold. Our time would be better spent in other more worthwhile pursuits: loving, for one.
This is what I have learned: We endure what we must. I don’t know how the starving AIDS orphans endure their plight. They do it because they must. I have survived the loss of Rachel so far not because I am strong or courageous or virtuous or special, but, simply, because I have no other real option. And that is the way we learn all the hard lessons of life - Not because we choose, but because, at last, we must reconcile ourselves to the given facts of our lives. So much for victorious living. It is much more like surrender, more like defeat. I would not have chosen this path; it is not what I had planned for my life, or my daughter’s. A daughter should steward the memory of her parents, not the other way around. Everything is out of order now…
But look at Christ...His dark agony, his apparent defeat in death on the cross, turned out to be the victory he sought and on which all our hopes depend. He overcame by submitting to his defeat, by suffering and dying. It doesn’t make any sense, but it does give us hope.
In the end, God’s promises are our only hope. A desperate, drowning person will grasp at anything, I know. But on my best days, I truly believe. Some would counsel us simply to put this whole horrendous mess behind us; forget about it and move on. We can’t do that. We live in the present, and Rachel’s life and death has changed the whole landscape of our present lives. Even if we could, we wouldn’t want to. Rachel, our hearts insist, is more than a memory. The only thing that keeps us moving forward instead of dwelling in the past now, is the awareness that it is only in the future that all our hope is realized. We will never find Rachel in the past. We can’t put her behind us. We must put her ahead of us. That is what keeps us going. She cannot come to us, but we shall go to her.