My heart has been heavy the past week or two with the sorrow of others. A friend’s dad died unexpectedly. I stumbled upon the blog of a woman whose 7 year old drowned this past summer. A columnist at our diocesan newspaper died, the young mother of two kids under 3. A woman whose care site I follow will most likely lose her second son to an unknown disease soon. My husband is away for the week (maybe it’s morbid, but it makes me think of what life would be like as a widow). And on and on and on…
John Paul II in Salvifici doloris speaks about suffering ‘unleashing love’. I don’t think I would have understood that at a base level if I hadn’t lost my kids. I mean, obviously, when someone is suffering you want to comfort them, help them, do something to aleviate their pain. But I am talking about something which takes place in the heart. Before Peter died, I felt bad for people who were suffering, but could more easily keep that pain at a distance. Now when I hear of parents losing children, spouses losing spouses, job loss, chronic illness… it strikes a chord in my chest. I get a hint of it in my very core. Perhaps on the outside, there is little difference in the response- a card, a call, a meal, a prayer. But inside me the charity is deeper, more sincere, more authentically compassionate.
In my own grief, God has gifted me with others who have had a place in their hearts hollowed out by such pain. One such woman discovered Gianna’s site through a mutual friend almost immediately after it went up. Though we live many miles apart and have only met once in person (she and her family came to the funeral), it was to her that I felt compelled to first share the joys and trials of Gia’s short medical drama. She had been through a similar situation and was facing it from an almost identical spiritual perspective. Her support has consisted of nothing more than prayer, example and emails, but it has made all the difference in the world. Our friendship has unleashed love.
I am convinced that this is one of the reasons that God allows suffering. In a busy world where it is all too easy to get wrapped up in practice and dinner and junk mail and TV suffering jars us out of trivial concerns and moves us to be gift to others. As beings made in the image and likeness of the One who is Love, it is here that we become who we are meant to be- both now and in eternity.