Sunday, July 04, 2010

Graceful Suffering

My longtime childhood friend-through-adulthood suffers from Epstein Bar Virus and various consequential health problems as a result. While we are over 2000 miles apart, the friendship grows faithfully with the years. This tree is her tree, the one that I have dedicated to her life and efforts.

The tree is called "Miss Grace" and is a dwarf cultivar of the Dawn Redwood. Slow growing, remains diminutive, and is ever so graceful. Refreshes the gardens even on tremendously hot days.

I wonder if suffering can be viewed, termed, "graceful"? I believe so. But to actually suffer gracefully is something I have not mastered. I pray for the graces to suffer gracefully.

Part of what I emptied out in the tomb room of confession the other day, was that I do not suffer gracefully, not well, but at least with the most recent serious pain siege, I only had contact with my confessor, my long time friend, and a recent, lovely, new friend from the Cathedral.

I told the confessor that although I have offered the suffering for the priests of the Diocese and various other intentions, that I never anticipated that the suffering would become so severe, so intense, to the point that it feels at times like some sort of psychotic break is occurring, not that I've ever had a psychotic break. But I've read about them in my degree coursework in clinical psych. What I experience is pain so severe that the mind can no longer cope with it, and so the mind goes elsewhere, and the body remains with the pain.

Well, that is not an apt description, either. Perhaps this: I look out with my eyes, but all seems as if I am looking in on some place where I am not. Even when I look out upon the beautiful gardens, it seems as if I'm viewing from some other dimension. When the pain climbs to a level in which the strong pain meds do not handle it, the mind, the psyche, perhaps even the soul, elevates to some other vantage point, yet all is within the body, remains connected in some way. Obviously, for I remain alive.

But is a person graceful when suffering? We must look to Christ for this answer. Was He graceful in His suffering?

Yes. He remained passive, patient and gentle. He spoke to His Father, His mother, His close friend St. John the Apostle. We don't know from Scripture if He spoke to Simon of Cyrene who helped carry the cross, but if He did, we can assume He said "thank you" and probably more. He spoke to the thief hanging on a cross near him, a fellow sufferer. He spoke words of promise and hope. He spoke of a physical need or sensation, that He thirsted. It has been said that He thirsted for souls, but also His body thirsted, yet He did not drink what was offered, the vinegar and gall. But He remained graceful all through His suffering.