On the April day that I went to the emergency room for the first time, I returned home to learn that my cousin and godmother had died after a bewildering health emergency. It had only been a few years since we had lost two other family members far too young, and in those intervening years I had developed a chronic illness and dealt with the bittersweet stress of long-term, long-distance relationship.
Every breath was an unanswered prayer. I didn’t think I could feel particular grief against the backdrop of so much agony. Then the terrible phone call came, and new sadness ripped into me. And I thought: this is life. Life will be a long string of hassle, aggravation, pain and loss until I die.
This Lent has felt similar. Though my chronic illness is in remission and my husband and I have lived in the same place for almost as long as we lived apart, there was no shortage of other darkness to deal with, including the interminable nor’easters that are punctuating what should be spring. I came down with a debilitating virus that took forever to leave and I haven’t sung well in weeks. Changing the clocks left me exhausted. And there was another terrible phone call, another loved one gone too soon.
The day after his funeral I led the choir at mass in the chapel where I have prayed and sung for nearly twenty years. At some point, who knows when, the gravity of loss struck me with force and my breathing deepened as I struggled not to cry. I thought of the decades of desperate prayer, of grief and loss, that I have spent in that space and marveled that a simple chapel could hold all of the agony and need I have brought to it. I was grateful that chapel was there. I was grateful that God is there.
Life is a long string of hassle, aggravation, pain and loss until we die. But in between there are miracles. We hear beautiful music and eat delicious food, we read poetry and smile at strangers. And we love one another with affection from so deep inside of us that wrenching grief is the ultimate price we pay. It is worth it. The miracles make it all worth it.