Our little town prematurely lost a teenager to suicide yesterday. Everyone is feeling the weight of something like this happening so close to home. And the fact of the matter is that there are no words to offer, nothing to be said that can alleviate or comfort anyone who is truly suffering. Suffering is pure blackness. It is a deep, dark pit with room for only one. Meals can be made, words of consolation spoken, but at the end of the day, no one can help carry the pain. No one can make time pass more quickly. The only way through suffering is right down the middle…there is no bypass.
However for those standing on the outside looking in, tragedy and suffering act like a flash forest fire. In an instant, everything superfluous gets burned away like dross. We are stripped of all pretenses and become aware of our mortality, the shortness of life and what we are living for that truly matters. We become painstakingly aware of how our priorities have gotten off-kilter, how busyness is running our life, and how unappreciative we have become. We see with clarity (if only temporarily) what is important in life.
In other countries where monasteries still play a major part in daily life, the first thing that a monk often does is to dig the grave that he will one day be buried in. This is not due to a morbid fascination with death, but rather as a reminder to live well so as to be prepared for death. What would life look like if we could preserve the somberness, the softness and the vulnerability of suffering? What if we could more consistently expose our weaknesses, our pain and our naked self without fear of condemnation? What if we all dared to live a more authentic life?
There is nothing that will lighten the load of the tragedy that has taken place. Nothing will comfort a grieving mother struggling to survive her first day without her son. But perhaps through our response, we can redeem what has been lost and live longer in this gift that suffering has to offer. Love and prayers for anyone who is suffering today…