Grief came during a birthday call to my husband on Sunday with news that his nephew Billy was severely beaten, left for dead, then discovered by a friend who put him to bed. When Billy’s concerned parents, not able to reach him, came to check on him, he immediately was taken to ICU. He was barely conscious, unable to move, hear or speak because of severe vertebrae and brain damage. He couldn’t communicate what happened to him. We went into action, praying for him, calling our children and activating the prayer list of our covenant community family.
The doctors scheduled spinal surgery for Thursday, but on Wednesday his brain began hemorrhaging, and even emergency surgery couldn’t save him. Billy didn’t make it through the night.
Devastated, we could only wait for word of funeral arrangements before we made our travel plans. Now it’s Saturday, and we still wait for the El Paso Police Department to release the body from the autopsy. Billy’s home, which he once shared with his grandfather, is now a crime scene, his bloodstained car impounded as evidence in a murder.
Waiting is like swimming in mud, helpless yet poised to do something—anything to relieve the pressure of grief. Shall I pack or buy groceries? The initial shock eases a little and deep inside a mysterious feeling arises through my sadness. I expected the anger to come, judgment, blame, and frustration at the evil in the world. But this is as different as yesterday’s hailstorm is from the lone fishing boat silhouetted against this morning’s sparkling water on our calm lake.
So I reach for my missal, and find the answer in today’s mass readings: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, as my God is the joy of my soul.” (Isaiah 62:10)
The joy of my soul was fighting my fears to comfort me from within. The joy that death has been conquered by our Savior. The joy that Billy, prepared for eternity by the Anointing of the Sick, is now free forever of all worldly impediments to give and receive love unconditionally.The joy that our grief-stricken family will survive to love one another more deeply and that evil men will answer to their Creator and Judge The joy of my soul was fighting my fears to comfort me from within. The joy of the vision of his grandparents embracing him in heaven.
Joy in the visible support of those who fill in the gaps for us in our ministry responsibilities. In a dear friend, a priest who is devoting his mass during a men’s retreat to Billy. In the joy that we can trust God with the tiniest and biggest things in our life, times of grief and joy, even our death. What was struggling to free me from deep within my heart was an Alleluia!
Is there an Alleluia! struggling to escape from your grieving heart?
(© 2012 revised 2016 Nancy Ward)