Grief is a wild ride. When we are not in the middle of it we can map its contours, predict its stages and know the knot will finally unravel. But when the loss of a loved one inhabits our soul, we become occupied territory and it can feel like the occupation will never end.
Reflecting on the moment that Jesus washed his disciples feet, John Shea wrote,
'The water rushed like a river in spate,
straight to their hearts.
They were embarrassed that He should be so poured out.
And then they remembered that it was with his own tears that
he raised Lazarus to life.'
I remember a very distressed young man who had lost his wife saying, "Someone
should have told me that all marriages end in divorce or death!" Someone did, but he never heard it, even though he said it himself on his wedding day! The truth of eternal people grounded in time: the deeper the love, the deeper the grief. And this is something we avoid thinking about when we give our hearts away. In the world we inhabit, the advent of love is the seed of grief. Even if we do not say it out loud, even if we only whisper it in the cellar of our hearts, love readies us for grief and for tears.
And it is the same love that consoles us. But we must trust this love and follow it to its birth place. Here, love hints at something more. It is this love that empowers us to stay with the sick and the dying and to visit the graves and make memory markers for our loved ones.
In the beautiful film, Shadowlands, the story of a deep friendship which turns into love when Joy Gresham is diagnosed with bone cancer. Joy tells CS Lewis as they begin loves journey, 'our happiness now is part of our pain then' and as she nears the end of her life she picks up the same golden thread and says, 'our pain now is part of our happiness then'.
It is here that I find the Lazarus incident so beautiful. God's own Beloved Son, who sees from the inside out by His own interior radiance, holds us through all the losses and deaths we endure and brings us back to life in the far reaches of God. His intimate presence is at the centre of our true self. The more we contemplate and integrate Him, the more he becomes a gentle and enduring strength for us. Sustained by Him we can grieve the loss of our friends and entrust them to Him. Love generates both grief and consolation, which is why St Paul said, 'Do not grieve like those who have no hope' (1 Thess 4:13) We grieve with hope when we stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with a sobbing Jesus and hear Him cry,
'Lazarus, come out!!'