Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If prayer is the attempt to understand God, then grieving is the deepest form of prayer, rising from the body and soul and mind, asking God and really and truly wanting to know, no matter what the answer: Who are you? Why did you create a world with pain? Why is life this way? What are you? Because you are not what I thought you were.

Grieving, at its deepest level, is to acknowledge that creation can be cruel and that people suffer. To look at this truth, to allow yourself to feel it, you are forced to consider the nature of this world and this existence. You can ask how this can be and who set this up and why this happens. To grieve is to ask God the hardest questions. To grieve is to ask who God really is. It's to change your perspective on all other human beings and their relationships to one another and to you and your place in this world. To grieve is to start over, to be re-created.

This passage is taken from Fumbling, a book written by my neighbor, Kerry Egan, about her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela as she tried to make peace with her anger and grief following her father's death. I've been reading this book off and on for a few weeks now and have been touched by several of her observations and reflections. But none so profoundly as the above. I read it over and over, amazed at how clearly she captured the spiritual confusion that has accompanied my grief.

Throughout Will's life and several close calls when we thought we'd lost him, I told myself that I could not live in a world that allowed such an innocent to suffer and die for no reason or believe in a God who was powerless to prevent such pain. When Will died many people tried to offer solace in any way they could, often speaking of Will in heaven with God and no more pain. I didn't want Will to have pain, never wanted him to suffer, but I also didn't want to have to lose him to end his pain. "So what if he's with God now?" I raged. "I want him here with me!"

I thought that the miracle of Will's life would strengthen my faith and John's--who could deny the power of God's work in healing our tiny baby from the roller coaster of illness we witnessed each day? For throughout his life, I never doubted that he would be saved. The night he died, I was sure that my faith died with him. "What are we going to do?" I asked John over and over. "How will we go on?"

We did go on of course. But we went on in a world profoundly altered by what we'd been through. We wrote in this blog about trying to find a "new version of normal" for there was no way to return to what had been normal for us before Will lived and died.

I struggled with faith--continue to struggle, actually. Prayer seems so powerless against the forces of grief, so full of questions for which there will never be answers. I think that's why Kerry's passage struck me to the core. Grief isn't soothed by prayer. Grief is prayer. I sometimes worry about letting myself get bogged down in the weight of this grief, but if I think of it as prayer, it doesn't feel so heavy. It's a weight that is part of my new normal. It's the weight of Will, and I don't have to let it go.