Recently the question of my faith keeps coming up. A few weeks ago someone asked me what God and my faith meant to me. Just last week I was asked again where I felt God was in my darkest days. And this past weekend, the question came up yet again. Where did I see God in Rachel's death? As many of you already know, Rachel died on September 9, 2006, a date which is rapidly approaching, and will represent 5 years since her tragic accident and death. My faith has been my anchor in the storm, my foundation when everything around me shook, and the light even in the darkest of hours. It has kept me going.
The first question of God's presence took place right at Rachel's bedside. A friend had stopped by to see Rachel and be there to support us in our hour of need. As he stood there, he quietly asked, 'Where is God in all this?,' to which I answered 'He has been with us all day.' and really gave it no further thought. I had started that fateful day with one simple request, and I had asked God to give me the strength to deal with whatever the outcome might be. I was unable to pray all day, even though my rosary remained in my hands, and when clergy came in and out of Rachel's room, I found myself often times, just going through the motions.
The following morning, September 10th, my husband and two children attended 10 a.m. Mass. I felt a need to attend Mass, and I had been scheduled to be the lector for that Mass and in my infinite sense of responsibility, had not gotten anyone to cover for me. So here we were, and I proclaimed the readings, and even though it was difficult, I felt comforted. Why did I need to be at Mass? Why was it so important to me? For me, this was a place that brought me peace and comfort, a place that I knew I was accepted in all my brokenness. This was my extended family, who would embrace me as I was. This was were I needed to be at that moment in time.
A few months later while driving my son to school, he asked, 'Why did God let this happen?' Why did he let Rachel die?' Questions that I knew would eventually come up, since they had been questions, I had often asked in silence. My response, was God didn't let it happen and he no more wanted to see Rachel die than we did. I assured him that God cried right along with us, for He too had watched his own Son die. I reminded my son that God actually had been with us all through that day and the days that followed. He was present in the people who came to the hospital. He surrounded us with family and friends. He sent us medical staff that were kind and compassionate. He even somehow made sure Rachel was not alone on that stretch of highway. And in the days that followed, his comfort could be felt in the many calls, cards, and the simple gestures of those around us. The amazing thing for me was when I voiced this belief, a sense of peace came over me, and still comes over me every time I share my journey and how my faith has kept me going.
A friend called several months after Rachel's death, and my answer surprised her. She asked if I was angry at God, to which I simply said, 'No, it wasn't His fault, Rachel fell asleep at the wheel, there was no one to blame, but Rachel herself.' I guess it wasn't the answer she expected, and I found out later, that others did not expect it either. Did I ever get angry with God? Yes! Did I ask for explanations. Yes! But I also spoke to Him, even yelled at Him, trying to understand. I remember going into my room, closing the door, and having an argument with God. I have to admit it was a bit one-sided, I did all the yelling and He simply listened. When I had finally spent all my emotion and anger, and was quiet, I heard the reassuring words 'I'm here! I am with you.' I cried and journaled and in my writing I felt a calming, peacefulness that is hard to explain, a sense of being hugged and held.
Grief is not an easy journey, and in its darkest hour, we sometimes feel there is no way out. We believe that we will never be happy again, we will never be able to smile or find joy in life. But yet, somehow we do smile, we find joy, and we begin to laugh again, and the memories become treasures we hold dear. My faith has been my guide and continues to be my strength, and anger and doubt help us to voice what we keep within. God after all is my Father, and like my own father, He accepts that there will be anger, there will be disagreement, there will be discouragement, there will be questions, and that in time there is acceptance and understanding. And like any loving father, He too worries about us, but yet keeps at a safe distance, and waits for us to call on Him for help and guidance.
I know that it has been my faith that has held me in those times when I felt I could not go on, let alone stand. It has been my faith that has been my true strength, and my belief that I will see Rachel again when I die. My prayer and hope for you is that you have something to hold on to, a faith to cling to, a belief to see you through. Whatever you believe, let it be you comfort and strength, your guide and hope. For what is life without hope, what is love without give and take, and what is strength without sacrifice. This weekend I heard someone say, that without hope there is no life, only death. This is not necessarily a physical death, but a death to who we are, and what we can become. Faith is hope, and when even a small glimmer of hope exists, so much can and will happen. It brings to mind those miners in Chile, who held onto the hope of rescue. Who in October of last year, rejoiced at the tiny glint of light that made its way through the depths to lead them out of their darkness and back into the fullness of light; into the arms of their loved ones, and the rejoicing that resounded around the world.
So remember that everything we hold dear, holds us dear, and it is our faith, our beliefs and our hope that give us the tools for the journey, no matter how arduous the road. For me personally, it is the knowledge that I am not alone, that gives me the strength to go on; knowing that I am loved, and that I am 'held in the palm of His hand,' gives me a comfort that goes beyond explanation.
Blessings! and until we meet again.