One of the great honors of burying a child is the way that others open up to you about their own grief. It’s like being initiated into a very strange secret society, except that no one joins it on purpose. Since my initiation two and a half years ago I have heard a lot of stories of loss that as I mentioned on Tuesday, I take more closely to heart than I could have before. I think what saddens me most is parents who have lost children older than mine. (This, of course is most of them, since Peter and Gianna were so young when they died.)
I am not trying to minimize my grief or anyone else’s. The grief of a parent who loses a baby to miscarriage or early infant death grieves more for what could have been. For their hopes. For the things they did not get to do with the child. Of course we miss our babies. They are real people no matter how long they lived and we suffer because they should be with us and they aren’t. But I think it is also safe to say that the longer someone is around, the more we invest in them and the more it hurts when they are absent. And I am careful not to say we “get attached” to them. While that is true, I think the matter is love, not mere affection. The more we give of ourselves to someone, the more of us they take with them when they go. Even the parents I know who cared for their children for just a year or so poured out their hearts in dedicated service to their child for four times longer than we did. Again, not to minimize. Just to make the point that the more we love the more we grieve.
And that brings me to Mary, the mother of Jesus. This woman, saved through her Son, was preserved from the stain of Original Sin, and did not commit any personal sin in her lifetime. Since sin is a failure to love, then we can safely say that Mary never passed up an opportunity to make a gift of herself fully to anyone. And who could this woman love more fully than the only One capable of surpassing her own ability to love? Jesus, of course. Can you imagine their relationship? How deep, how tender, how intimately pure and beautiful?
How, then, must this dear woman have felt at the foot of the Cross? She loved with her whole heart as perfectly as any human being could. More than any purely human creature, before or since. And her Divine Son, whom she had cherished for 33 years, hung bloodied and rejected before her. There is a reason she is called Our Lady of Sorrows. And if we sinners can see our own capacity for authentic compassion grow with our own losses, what a bottomless fount of mercy she must be. Let us not hesitate to take to her our own deepest sorrows, doubts or even anger. She knows what it means to grieve, and as our Mother, she grieves with us.
Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided…