Without a word being said, you could see in her eyes, through the agony and sorrow, that she longed for that chance to hold and console her son again.
There may be no greater anguish than that of a mother mourning the death of her child, maybe, more so in the case of Mary, who witnessed her son's barbaric and grotesque demise, as people taunted him and laughed.
Most of us, will never know that pain. Yet, we may get glimpses of it whenever we lose a loved one.
A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker lost her 24-year-son. The young man met his destiny on a local interstate one night. He lost control of his vehicle, ran off the road and was ejected. Rescuers told the family that he probably died on impact. Thus, diminishing thoughts of possible suffering, even though, I'm sure, the wonder will always linger.
It happened during the weekend and when we heard the news that following Monday, it was a shock to our entire staff. I couldn't believe it and can't begin to imagine the jolt it was for his mother.
Death, especially when it involves the young, is always difficult. In the natural order of life, a child is not supposed to die before their parent. As one speaker noted at the funeral service, when a spouse dies, the surviving partner is called a widow or widower. When a child loses their parents, they are called orphan. But, when a parent loses a child, there is no word for it because no word will suffice.
Yet, death is a stage that every living organism eventually must face, whether they are ready for it or not.
Most people prefer not to think of it but, as St. John Bosco once said, "Think of it or not, death is unavoidable." Every breath we take is a gift from God, no matter who we are, what we have done, our age or health.
A couple of weeks ago, it was my co-worker's son. Several weeks before, it was the 12-year-old son of another woman, who works in a different department at our network. The boy was diagnosed with Leukemia and five days later, he was dead.
It will take both mothers a long time to heal, if not completely, at least enough for them to move forward.
For me, they are poignant reminders of how fleeting life really is.
|Pieta by Bouguereau (1876)|
As morbid as the expression sound to some, it is actually quite joyous, if not liberating. Since, once we accept our own mortality, we can start living like it with the people we most love.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way, "Remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment."
Finding that fulfillment begins and ends with love. As others have noted, no one on their sickbed says, "I didn't spend enough time at the office," "I wish I would have made more money," or "buy more stuff." Instead, most people regret not spending enough time with their family, wasting time in strife instead of saying "I'm sorry," and failing to tell their loved ones how much they loved them.
These are regrets that even surviving family members are often left to ponder after someone dies.
In any case, it's a poor consolation to a mother who just lost her son; a son, who, at his tender age, may not have given much thought to his certain fate.
Yet, as a woman of faith, my co-worker realizes that death is not the finale but the beginning. It is the next chapter for our eternal soul. And, just as Jesus was crucified, died and resurrected, we too can hope with confidence that our loved ones will be raised with Him after they are gone.
As many of her friends and family walked by the open casket for a final farewell at the service before heading to the cemetery, I walked around the crowd to where my co-worker was standing, greeting some well-wishers, and when it was my turn, I hugged her tightly, as tears ran inconsolably down her cheeks. As my voice cracked and my eyes watered, I told her to be strong and that I was certain her faith would carry her through this.
I also told her to look to Mary and ask for her prayers of intercession because, as a mother, who suffered and mourned the death of her son, she well understood her desperate yearning to hold her son again. Mary shows us the way to grieve with grace.