Last week a message came from a friend regarding a young woman who had died from suicide. As my friend said, “an unspeakable tragedy.” I know few details and in thinking about this loss, I realized that I do not need to know the details in order to mourn with them. When we are not close to the story, we use details to make the tragedy manageable with explanations, to distance ourselves with reasons that assure us that it cannot happen in our lives. But that distance is a lie. What would I say to these parents? My only thought is that they will survive this, but for a long time they might wish that they wouldn’t.
During my prayer time, I was in a vigorous argument with God and the universe. Of what good are the biblical promises of favor and protection when children are suffering and dying? There are losses for which we have no adequate words. Yet words and story and connection are the sources of our comfort. In the prayer below, the part that I find most compelling is that we worship a God who descended into hell. I stubbornly embrace the idea that even in hell wherever we find it, we are not cut off from God. Deo Volente.
Adapted from an Orthodox Funeral Hymn
What earthly sweetness remains unmixed with grief? What glory stands immutable on the earth? All things are but feeble shadows, all things are most deluding dreams, yet one moment only, and death supplants them all. But in the light of your face, O Christ, and in the sweetness of your beauty, give rest to her whom you have chosen, in as much as you love your children.
We weep and lament when we think upon death, and behold our beauty created in the likeness of God lying in the tomb disfigured, bereft of glory and form. O the marvel of it! What is this mystery concerning us? Why have we been delivered to corruption? Why have we been wedded to death? Truly, as it is written, by the command of God who gives the departed rest.
You are the God who descended into hell, and loosed the bonds of the captives: Give rest, also, to the soul of your child.
In the place of your rest, where all your saints repose, give rest, O Savior, to the soul of your child, preserving her to the life of blessedness which is with you, O Lord who loves your children.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen