It is difficult to understand why God would allow a young, very much loved child to die. Why would He not answer the prayers of his family and cure him of his illness? What good can possibly result from his death? I read a heart-rending reflection by a father who was pondering such questions. He couldn't come up with any answers.

"There is only one positive thing I can see: My son will never be in my position. He will never have to undergo the sorrow of watching someone die."

What if someone close to me hasn't got long to live? How can I watch that person die?  I imagine sitting by his side. How can I bear to witness his last suffering? I will go to pieces and be a crying mess. I can already feel the lump in my throat. Tears are threatening to seep from my eyes, so I thrust the thought away. My mind says, Enough! Don't think about that too deeply. It really is too painful to contemplate such a scene.

I heard a beautiful story of a son who spent days by the side of his dying mother. She had slipped into a state where she couldn’t recognise those around her. But each day the son kept vigil, and on her last night when she struggled to breathe, he climbed into bed beside her and held her close within his arms. He stayed there, suffering with his mother, until her last moment of life.

Of course, I have already watched someone die: my son Thomas. I had always thought I’d be frightened of witnessing a death and holding a dead body. I also thought I would be unable to bear the emotional pain. During Thomas’ pregnancy, whenever I imagined him dying, my mind froze. I couldn’t dwell on this probable scene for very long because I knew I’d start to despair.

But when the time came, I forgot my fear. I held Thomas in my arms after the doctors stopped treating him in the NICU, and there was no question of me abandoning him. Difficult though it was, I wanted to be with my son as he passed from this life to the next. Of course I cried with grief
 but I didn't go to pieces. I coped.

I think again of that man who had to witness the death of his son. It is true the child will never know the agony of sitting by a loved one's side and watching him die. He will never know the pain of ongoing grief. Thomas will never know those pains either. But they both must know how difficult it is for anyone to endure such sufferings. I'm sure they are very grateful we stayed with them until the last moment and longer. They must know just how much we love them.

It all really comes down to love. That same love that causes us so much pain that we are tempted to run away, also gives us the strength to stay. Love overcomes all our fears. It helps us do things we don’t want to do. Love enables us to hold onto the dying, embracing them closely. It encourages us to stay by their sides whispering comforting words and praying for their souls, until the very last moment. Love never lets us forget them. I guess it's the cause of our grief.

I think again about the possibility of having to watch a loved one die, and again my heart is gripped with fear. Don't think of the future. Live in the present moment, I tell myself. And I shall, because if sorrow does arrive, and a loved one needs me once again to keep him company during his last moments, I know God will be there and afterwards with His strength and His love. I also know that I have to do what I hope someone else will do for me. 

Of course, witnessing the death of a loved one is only the beginning. The bereaved father thought he'd have to cope with an endless, meaningless grief. And yes, grief never really does disappear. But is it meaningless? Death might seem to result only in pain for those left behind, but I know that's not true. Suffering results in extraordinary graces. It has incredible value.

I have been thinking about something my dear friend Patricia said to me: Hearts that have had to accommodate huge grief, now also have room for so much more love. I keep tossing that thought around my mind.

Room for so much more love? We all have to love and love some more, until we love like God. That's our mission in life.

Could it be... we grieve because we love, but love grows and grows because of grief?

I know I haven't expressed my thoughts very well. I'm still pondering. I'm still tossing Patricia's words around my mind.

Thank you, Patricia.

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  1. "It all really comes down to love. That same love that causes us so much pain that we are tempted to run away, also gives us the strength to stay. Love overcomes all our fears. It helps us do things we don’t want to do. Love enables us to hold onto the dying, embracing them closely. It encourages us to stay by their sides whispering comforting words and praying for their souls, until the very last moment. Love never lets us forget them. I guess it's the cause of our grief."

    Sue, that's such an extraordinary paragraph! The last sentence is fascinating. Love brings the greatest joy, but when we lose the object of our love, through rejection, or death, then our love for that person can no longer be poured out upon them. This reminds me of what St. Therese said about God's love being rejected and "locked up" in His Heart. She saw this as causing Him great pain. Love needs release, and when its object is gone, it can no longer lavish itself on that person. Grief seems the perfect word to describe that feeling of one's heart breaking --too much love "locked up" inside?

    It seems to me that it is the suffering which makes love grow, because love has to spend itself in the process of losing someone. You so beautifully described this above: "strength to stay, overcome our fears, stay by their side, do what we don't want to do," etc. How powerful love is! We are surprised at our own strength. When we love through the suffering, I think it is loving like Jesus and we are transformed. Our capacity to love grows. And the miracle is that we don't only love the one lost more, but we seem able to love everyone more. God has made our hearts grow :) I watched my mother die. It took about 18 hours. It was so painful, yet strangely sweet, because I could give her the gift of my presence, my touch, my words, my prayers --the last gift of love on earth is so often simply being there. Love is a great mystery, isn't it? I love sharing our thoughts about it. Imagine if we could talk over tea? Would we ever stop? :) Thanks for trying to make sense out of what I wrote in my other comment...and this one too! The final secret of love will be revealed only in Heaven, when we are reunited with those whom we lost and grieved. When we find them again in God, who can describe our joy!!! So grateful for your friendship.....xoxo

    PS I see it is already October 1 over your way, so......Happy Feast Day. Will the unschoolers have a holiday for St. Therese's Feast? :)

    1. Patricia,

      "Love needs release, and when its object is gone, it can no longer lavish itself on that person." I've been thinking about this sentence all morning. When we're grieving it can help so much to look beyond ourselves, towards other people. Of course this seems impossible for a very long time, and we do need a period of being alone with just our sorrow and God. Then when we are ready, perhaps we can lavish the love we have locked up inside us on others. I know I felt a great release being able to love my other children and then later to help others outside my family. Could this be the reason we yearn to have another baby when we have lost one? We think having another child will help us heal and it does if we first allow ourselves to sorrow for the baby who has died. I know I had an easier path to healing because of Sophie and Gemma-Rose, than did my friends who were unable to have another child after their losses.

      "we don't only love the one lost more, but we seem able to love everyone more" It's funny but I would say I love Thomas more and more as time passes, which is strange because I would have thought that love might fade as I move further and further away from the only event we shared here on earth. How can love grow for someone that isn't physically here? But somehow it does.

      Maybe when we accept what God allows He fills our hearts with love, we let Him in. Grief is our opportunity to show love towards God because we choose to love Him regardless of the pain.

      The secret of love... Patricia, the more I try to put love into words, the less sense I seem to make! Yes, it would be so much easier if we were talking over tea, exchanging thoughts in turn. All I really know is love is so very powerful. And without the accompanying pain, love wouldn't be the same, I'm sure.

      Patricia, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a long comment full of thoughts to contemplate! I can see I will be thinking about this for a long time. Yes, we will understand one day, and what a joyful day that will be!!

      Happy belated Feast day for St Therese! May God bless you. Sending you lots of that love we've been talking about! xx

    2. Sue, the same night I posted this comment, Johnette Benkovic had a show about losing a child, on EWTN radio. Of course, I thought of you. It was a wonderful show. The pain, the grief was in no way minimalized. But, there was hope for healing too. man who had lost his five year old to a car accident 18 years ago reminded me of you. His famiily has kept their son alive all these years, in their thoughts and words and actions. He is a part of their conversations and their lives. He made the comment that you are never the same, because it's as if that child takes a little piece of your heart to Heaven with them. He also said that it's so hard to lose a child because it's like an unfinished wonder who they would have been, what they would have done, etc. I so wished you could have heard the hour long discussion. You may know that Johnette lost her son in 2004, and then her husband only 3 years later. God bless her! I understand the time needed to grieve and suffer in solitude. I felt that way after my surgery...when I felt in some way that I had lost all of my children...who would never be. I thought I could not live with such pain and grief. But as you said in your other comment, when we submit to God's Will..His Wisdom which is so much greater than ours, then we can begin to heal. But the pain always remains to some extent..the loss is real. I find that rejoicing with others who are blessed with children has been very healing to me. I find great joy in watching these families and seeing the love they share. It's sort of a vicarious joy...a true gift from God. And I know, we will all understand one day. God only chooses what is best for us...painful as it may be in the tiny blip of time this life is in eternity. I am beginning to think that we both think ALOT! :) Love to you too! xoxo

    3. Patricia,

      "it's as if that child takes a little piece of your heart to Heaven with them" That is so true. I also think a bit of Heaven is given to us as well.

      An unfinished symphony... It's strange but I hardly ever wonder what Thomas would have been like or what he'd be doing if he were here with us. Instead I always think of him as all grown up in Heaven. I picture him standing by the side of Jesus as they welcome me into Heaven. He will be so so handsome and his smile will be enormous and he will hug me so tightly. I do though understand about others wondering about what could have been,

      Saying all of that and accepting what God allowed, I do feel grief at losing Thomas. I just realised his birthday is only a month away. I need to order him a teddy bear. I have found an online shop that sells the most gorgeous bears! I know, as the next few weeks pass, I will feel more and more sorrowful as I remember Thomas' death.

      You are so very generous and loving, Patricia. I know parents who are unable to share in the happiness of others because of their own pain. It is so very difficult when other people's children remind you of your own losses. God certainly has filled your heart with exceptional love.

      I have heard a few very sorrowful stories this morning and I do stop sometimes and wonder why God allows such unhappiness. Johnette's double sorrow must be very difficult for her. God's love must fill the bereaved hearts or otherwise how would we survive?

      We do think a lot. I could sit here forever chatting about life and its mysteries. Andy is waiting though. Time for my coffee. I wonder if we will walk up to the village cafe. Love you!

  2. Sadly I have seen many people go the opposite way. They cut themselves off from other family and friends. Two families I know of who have both lost children, became very hard. Like a case of hurt people before being hurt. I think they are trying to avoid further pain by not allowing themselves to love too many people or maybe they think we cannot understand the depths of their pain. I am not exactly sure what it is but it makes me very sad.

    1. Lisa,

      I have heard similar stories. Parents can sorrow and hurt so much they close up and isolate themselves from friends and family. I think a certain amount of this is normal. I can remember how Andy and I closed ranks and didn't want to be with anyone who couldn't understand our pain. No one really understands unless they've been there and experienced it. Then later we were ready to respond when people reached out to us. We just needed a period of time alone. We also couldn't deal with the unintentional, unthinking but still hurtful things people used to say, when we were newly bereaved.

      Sometimes bereaved parents can't accept their children's deaths and turn away from God, feeling He no longer loves or cares about them. I remember feeling unloved too. Why didn't God respond to my prayers? Why would He take away a child we really wanted? Why would He want me to feel such pain? It was hard to understand and accept. But I really do think God is waiting with His healing love, the sort of love we are talking about. We need to turn to Him and accept what He has allowed regardless of the pain. Then He can help us. By ourselves we become bitter and lost. I remember getting so fed up with the pain. I couldn't live with such a weight of sorrow. In the end I realised I couldn't help myself and turned to God, despite not understanding. I was willing to accept God knew better than I did when it came to my life. Things got better after that, not instantly but it was the start of healing.

      I often wonder why some people can't seem to get to this point. Hurt is so hard to bear. Maybe it seems easier to turn inward and avoid anything that might result in further hurt. Love is a risk. But if we have courage and love anyway, perhaps love does grow and we heal.

      Lots of random thoughts! I'm not sure they are well expressed but hope you get what I'm trying to say. I'm glad you commented. Thank you!

  3. I think the way we react in emergencies can also be a sign of our love for someone. Yesterday I witnessed my eight year old son being hit by a car while he was riding his bike. My reaction was to scream at the top of my lungs for probably three minutes straight. Once I realized he was going to be okay, I calmed down. The accident seemed so bad. I am wondering if some angels carried him? I know that sounds crazy. I also have been feeling embarrassed by my reaction when it happened. I just love him so much and I thought I had lost him. All he ended up with was three scrapes. Thanks for letting me share!

    1. Gina,

      I'm so happy your son is okay! I can just imagine that horrifying moment when you watched the car hit his bike. I think I would have screamed as well.

      "I think the way we react in emergencies can also be a sign of our love for someone." I agree. Even a possible emergency can cause us to get very upset. I'm thinking about such things as when kids are late coming home. Our imaginations start to go wild and we feel so upset thinking something dreadful has happened. And then when we find out everything is fine we feel such a great sense of relief ( and embarrassed we reacted that way!) But yes, we love so much and what would we do without our children?

      I can quite believe the angels carried your son. We celebrated the Feast of the Archangels on Sunday, and isn't today the Feast of the Guardian Angels? So glad we have angels!

      Gina, thank you for stopping by and sharing. I bet you haven't wanted to let your son out of your sight today!


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