Tuesday, April 07, 2009
It seems I'm always at work when I get bad news. In high school, I was at work when I learned of the death of a recent ex-boyfriend, with whom I'd spoken only a week before.
A few years ago, a friend called me at work to notify me of the death of another friend which had taken place on Holy Thursday. She'd lost my new home number and left desperate messages for me at work. When I called her back, she told me how Amber had died in a wreck en route to work.
When my Grandmother died, I was at work when my brother called me. On that occasion I was the only person on my team in that day, we were buried in new claims, and I'd gone to the bathroom to try to get ahold of myself. I'd known my own would let me leave, but we had so much to do, I felt like I had to stay. Thank God two other managers in our office talked some sense into me as I was clearly in no position to do my job.
Even the day my Dad died, back when I was 20, I was at work and expecting a phone call at any moment. No, I didn't get the news at work, for once, but he passed away while I was there, waiting. On deathwatch. He was in another state and I had gone to work needing to keep busy while we awaited the news.
So it came as no surprise to me today when Mom called me at work to deliver yet more bad news.
After I hung up the phone, I sat at my desk tearfully, wondering if I could avoid the world for awhile. I grabbed my rosary to pray Divine Mercy for P., my friend. Before I even got into the first decade, I heard someone come in and ask for me. My phone rang; the secretary telling me he was there. I'd forgotten about the parent who was coming in to pick up some paperwork, and quickly tried to pull myself together. Hoping it looked only like I had a cold or allergies. That's so much easier to explain.
After he'd left, I told our secretary the news I'd gotten, managing to remain dry-eyed. She's not one who can easily deal with suffering, so I quickly took myself back to my office. As she left for the day she called out to me that it must be a lot like losing my Dad again. Because, she said, ever since her own mother had died, it was harder to lose certain female figures in her life, especially those who had had a particularly "motherly" role.
I was so glad, in that moment, that she couldn't see the effect her words had on me. In a sense, she's right. Although my Dad also helped me learn to drive, P. was more available and was the first to step in at my Mom's request. He was also the one who taught me to shoot, and in so many ways was a father-figure to me, even though I didn't really make that connection until this afternoon.
And now...we're losing him. And, just like my Dad, I haven't seen this dear friend in a few years, either. The last time I saw P. was at the funeral of a relative a couple years ago. While there, his wife had said to me, "You've always been so special to him."
I'll never forget those words, and how guilty I feel, having lost touch for so long.
He's always been special to me, too. And I'm so sorry I won't ever get a chance to say that to him. I can only hope he knows that. My life is better because of his involvement in it, because of the support he gave my family during some very difficult years, and because of the personal interest he took in me and my life. I know that some of what I accomplished was directly related to his own intervention.
So, I guess, in a sense, as I listen to the ticking of the clock tonight, I'm waiting and watching for the death of another type of father in my life.
Maybe it's appropriate, this week, to experience this deathwatch.
As Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, what did His followers do but sleep, when they should have been praying?
Jesus knew His time was near, and even James and John, His closest cohorts, could not stay awake to watch. But they were present.
They didn't realize they were supposed to be waiting.
But Christ did. He knew. He waited. He watched, and He as the first to see the flames of the torches coming.
Not much is said of the theological implications of waiting, but it's there. Christ Himself experienced it. When we know something is coming, when the Hour has come, we go, defeated, and if that Hour is delayed for any reason, it only prolongs our agony as we have worked so hard to prepare ourselves for what is to happen.
Something happens to us when we know a battle is done. We want it only to be over. And in between that realization and the final event, we die a thousand deaths. We are resigned to what is to occur. It is not that we devalue ourselves or those we are losing; rather, it is that sense of complete surrender, self-abandonment to God's will. Knowing He is in charge, knowing that once the final event happens, then we can move on, but until then, we suffer for and with the victim.
Agony, you see, is never personal; it belongs to all.
This is what allows us to enter into Christ's own Agony; He does not keep it for Himself, but is willing to share if we but ask to join Him. This is His consolation in the Garden. This is what the Angel represented: those who were willing to approach the Beloved Lamb of God, realizing that His suffering was necessary, redemptive, and not to be borne alone even though we ARE the cause of it.
So tonight, and as long as necessary, I guess all of us who await the death of a loved one enter into the shadows of this haunting garden, and together, we hold the hands of Our Lord who has been here waiting for us.
Can you hear the clock ticking? Can you hear the soft sound of your own heartbeat in the silence, counting the moments of life?
The Hour draws near.