Redemption

“Suffering is redemptive,” he countered. “Didn’t he tell you that when he explained the meaning of the breaking of bread at mass?”

“Who told you what?” I snapped irritably. I didn’t want to talk about Jude. I wanted to tell him how much each moment we had together meant to me. There was so much to say, and I knew that time wasn’t on my side.

“Jude. He said that the breaking of bread is symbolic of brokenness. You have to be broken to be saved. That Christianity is rooted in suffering. Jesus was open about how being a disciple and following in His footsteps will surely castigate you, banish you from the rest of the world. That it was a necessary torment.”

IN THIS LIFE, 2016

 

If you are Catholic, I’m sure you know that this is our Holy Week. It begins today with Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (I think) and was glorified. This happens right before his condemnation and suffering on a cross, after which he rises from the dead. It is the week of suffering which culminates in redemption, in Jesus going up to Heaven to sit at the right hand of his Father. It ends when hope is regained on Easter Sunday.

But no matter your faith or belief or religion, there is something about this week that is familiar to all of us.

This is the week that marks Christ’s suffering for the unjust betrayal of those who loved Him.

Pain, agony, loss. In one way or another, it has plagued us, those around us. The world has ended for us in so many ways, at so many different times. Some of us are more open than others, we cry from the rooftops and fling ourselves to the ground, thrashing and wailing while people gather around us to scoop us up and protect us. Others prefer to suffer in silence, burying themselves in the day to day, hopeless yet hopeful that time and silence and solitude can wash the pain away.

So, we all suffer, in one way or the other. What’s the point?

When I was six years old, bereft and despondent about my parents’ separation, I asked my teacher why it was that of all the little girls in my class, I was the only one whose parents were having trouble. I remember that afternoon distinctly because there I was, sitting in the Principal’s office after having been called in for causing some disturbance in class. She explained it to me with such clarity, that I will never forget her words. “Everyone has problems,” she said to me. “But those who are attune to it, who experience it and internalize it like you do, they are the blessed ones. Because no one appreciates life, its joys and its blessings as much as those who have weathered the sad times.”  I have lived my life with those words ever since.

In the past five years and beginning with the death of my mother, I have experienced unspeakable sadness. The finality of losing someone you love is unlike any other feeling in the world. I wrote about it in my first book, but I have harbored that same hopelessness in many other things that have happened since then. In the past month alone, there has been so much change in my life, it’s a wonder how I’m even left standing. On the first work day after my friend’s departure, I still turned the opposite way down the hall and stopped by her office, out of habit, for our 8 am breakfast meetings. Of course, she wasn’t there, the door was closed and moving bins were lined up against the wall. In April, I get to say goodbye to close friends who have been in my life every day for years. A few are moving on after finishing up a project we shared for work, one of them leaving for a faraway place and starting a new life altogether. A life where hearing from them every single day is no longer going to be possible.

Life’s losses are moments that help us to recognize the here and now, the living in the moment, the appreciation of what is there for you, friendships, children, husbands and lovers – each with a lesson that makes the scars and the wounds more bearable. Reasons, motivations, the sometimes disappointing human interaction that leaves us hurt and confused – these only serve to make us stronger. We are resilient, strong and malleable. We are hopeful.

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