Michael Dubruiel, husband of Catholic blogger Amy Welborn and himself a noted speaker and writer, passed away unexpectedly earlier this month. My heart goes out to Amy and her young familyand yet it is Amy who is offering consolation to all those who share her grief, and to all those who know what it is to lose a member of the family of the Lord. For in the Lord’s sacrifice, “death is swallowed up in victory,” and all that is lost is found anew.
Amy describes driving her children to the hospital for the wake and having her daughter read aloud from the Gospel of Mark. They reach chapter 5, where Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac and the villagers come out to see what wonder has occurred. Amy reflects:
They turn to Jesus, and what is their response? Thank you? Do for us what you did for him? Heal us? Help us? Drive out our demons, less in number and quieter, but demons still? Make us whole, as he is?
The reason that has resonated with me so much over the years is that I think it characterizes so much about the spiritual journey. Mine at least. Grace surrounds us. The witness of good, holy people surround usjoyful. The fruit of love is as clear as day, the spoiled fruit of selfishness and indulgence is also as clear as day. The power of Jesus is right here. He waits, in love.
And we say, more often than not, fearful of the changes, fearful of what will be lost, “Leave us.” . . .
There are stages, there are layers, there are bridges. There is a void, my best friend in the world is justgone. But in this moment I am confronted with the question, most brutally asked, of whether I really do believe all that I say I believe. Into this time of strange, awful loss, Jesus stepped in. He wasted no time. He came immediately. His presence was real and vivid and in him the present and future, bound in love, moved close. The gratitude I felt for life now and forever and what had prepared us for this surged, I was tempted to push it away for the sake of propriety, for what is expected, for what was supposed to be normalI was tempted to say, “Leave me” instead of accepting the Hand extended to me and to immediately allow him to define my life.
But I did not give into that temptation, and a few hours later I was able to do what I dreaded, what I thought was undoable, to be in a mystery that was both presence and absence and to not be afraid. To not be afraid for him, and for the first time ever in my entire lifeto not be afraid for myself, either.
I am reminded of Fr. Neuhaus’ story from As I Lay Dying , in which Father describes one of his early encounters with death. The man’s name was Albert, and, as the two of them prayed the Our Father together on a hot summer evening, he suddenly widened his eyes, looked intently at the pastor by his side, and said, “Don’t be afraid.” And that was it.
It is a wondrous thing when those who are suffering teach us how to rejoice, when those who are dying teach us how to live.