Thursday, March 7, 2013

Out of the Darkness

I was crabby when I got up this morning.  Probably because it was four.  The four of the A.M. variety.  I knew I was wrenching myself out from under the warm covers for a workout that can be best described with the words "torture-fest". I don't know if that's even a word, but it should be, because that's what this work out is.  I honestly don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I'm usually only about half awake when I get out of the car.  On the one hand, the awareness of what awaits might be a little dulled.  On the other hand... holy crap, what a rude awakening.

My friend in Germany (who can only be described as bat crap crazy, since she misses joining us on these jaunts) texted me and told me to have fun.  I texted her back and told her that she couldn't make me.

I only do this hike when I'm going with a friend, because it's so intense, you need to have someone there, just in case.  Of course my friend is in better shape than me, anyway, but then I also seem to have picked up some possible exercise induced asthma.  So now I'm all kinds of slow on top of the rest of it.  Yep, it's early, dark, cold, and for breakfast I'll have a heaping plate of your full-on beating with a side of wheeze, please.

So, yeah. Crabby.

When I get to the trail, I park my car and sort through my stuff.  Most of it was packed the night before (because I am NOT getting up early enough to pack in the morning), but I had to take off and stow my fleece and my hat and put on my headlamp.  Not to mention that I was stalling getting out of the warm car to head for the trailhead.

However, since there's no stopping the inevitable, I got out and joined my friend.*  We exchanged pleasantries almost-but-not-really-joking complaints about what is wrong with us and why do we do this to ourselves and ugh.  Once we reach the base of the trail, my friend wishes me good luck and takes off. Our plan is to meet at the top; this is the type of workout that is best done at your own pace.  You would think his headlamp would stay visible for a while since there is nothing else to obscure the view, but no.  He's soon beyond me in the darkness and it's only me and the steps.  Well, and a little ice to make it more fun.  Along with the aforementioned wheezing.**

It never ceases to amaze me how small my world becomes on this trail.  I know what's coming, and I do dread it, but really all I can deal with is the one step I'm taking. Finding a stable place to step. Deciding if there is enough firm surface to step or if I should put on my traction. Breathing in and out. I do take an occasional sip of water, but I'm usually breathing too hard to want it.  Focus on the fact that I just need to keep moving, and eventually it will be over.

Every once in a while, I may see my friend's headlamp flash back toward me.  Then, even though I'm feeling alone in the misery, I know that he's still checking.  And he knows that if he needs something I will (eventually) catch up with him. Once he gets to the top, though, he usually turns out his light to conserve the battery.  He's still checking, even though I can no longer see it.

When I finally approach an end point for the day, out of the darkness I hear "Good job! You made it!"  That makes me feel good- and VERY happy to be done-, even if I'm entirely too winded to make an attempt at a response (typical of that workout; not even a byproduct of the possible asthma). He knows not to expect an answer, and I know he won't be offended.  The way down is glorious, the torture is done, plenty of air for the taking, and the sun coming up and lighting up the sky.  People accuse us of being crazy, but those are the moments that we know why we are there, and we decide that they are crazy for wanting to stay tucked in their beds, missing out on a beautiful morning.

*Don't get any funny ideas. He's a good friend, but my friend in Germany? His serious girlfriend.  There are other reasons we wouldn't work as a couple as well, but those are moot.

**It's really quite minor, and if I notice it, I slow down and it immediately goes away.  It's not bad, but I'm a whiner and I'll whine if I want to.


This is a workout that I've talked about before on a couple of different occasions.  It's so intense that it lends itself to numerous posts. (I will not link those posts, because you just read this post, and I doubt those are much different.) Today, my thoughts are with a number of people that are grieving for lost family members and friends.  Unfortunately, I know a couple of people who have lost someone in the last week or so.  Not only that, but there are more that have lost someone in the last year.

One in particular is on my mind and heart.  I never met her, but I honestly am not sure how I missed out.  So many of my close friends do know her and are hurting at her loss.  I remember one of my friends talking about her about a year ago.  I thought at that time that she seemed like she would be a good person to get to know, and I was pretty sure we would be friends if we did meet.  Even if I knew nothing else about her, she obviously has great taste in friends!  Besides that, I am especially thinking of those that have lost babies, one in the last week at about 17 weeks gestation, another who would have been due this month, as well as several others.

First thing I want to say to those that are hurting right now, I'm sorry and I'm praying for you. I wish I could do more.

Beyond that, it's been making me think quite a bit.  Losses of a loved one are completely overwhelming. Most of my thoughts can be summed up in that workout that I did that morning. (Yes, I know that is completely trivial to the kind of loss we are speaking of; I do not mean disrespect.  The workout is merely an illustration.) We start out together on a journey, but sometimes someone gets ahead and we don't get to see or talk to them, or touch them or spend time with them anymore.  We say they are "gone".

The thing is, they really aren't gone.  Every once in while, we can see the light of their presence looking out for us up ahead.  They are there. They will send help if we fall. And they are faithfully waiting for us at the top. We will eventually get to the top, and we will eventually hear their voices again out of the darkness, "You made it. Good job."

The pain and weakness of loving others is an insane, intense, and crazy journey. But the glory of it when you get to the top together and the sun starts to finally break out over the horizon is well worth the work. Suddenly, all the people in their beds who said it was too crazy of a journey to start have become the crazy ones as they miss out on that in the end.

A couple of other things that I think about are that when these things happen, I do not really believe that God "takes" these loved ones from us.  I do not believe that He takes a child from his or her mother's womb, or takes a woman from the husband and children that she loves.  I do believe that God receives them joyfully, and yet is also with those that have to stay behind for a time.  I do not think that He causes any of these bad things to happen, but I do believe that His grace and love will conquer even the pain of death in the end, though it is a mess of grief here on earth.

I praise God again for the Mass, the supper of the Lamb, that pulls back a little bit the veil that divides us. As Therese of Lisieux said about receiving Communion after her mother had died:

Oh! no, the absence of Mama didn't cause me any sorrow on the day of my First Communion. Wasn't Heaven itself in my soul, and hadn't Mama taken her place there a long time ago? Thus in receiving Jesus' visit, I received also Mama's. She blessed me and rejoiced at my happiness.

The other thing I think about is that phrase "gone, but not forgotten".  We act as though those who have gone ahead of us are somehow missing out on life, and we forget that they that have died in Christ's love are living so much more fully than we are ourselves!  I think it's more important sometimes to remember that they have not forgotten us.  I love this from Catherine of Siena in her "Dialogues" (these are words to Catherine from God the Father):
Their desires are a continual cry to me for the salvation of others, for they finished their lives loving their neighbors, and they did not leave that love behind but brought it with them when they passed through that gate which is my only-begotten Son. So you see that in whatever bond of love they finish their lives, that bond is theirs forever and lasts eternally... What these blessed ones want is to see me honored in you who are still on the way, pilgrims running ever nearer your end in death. Because they seek my honor they desire your salvation, and so they are constantly praying to me for you. I do my part to fulfill their desire provided only that you do not foolishly resist my mercy.
 I think it's also important to remember that these bonds of love that we have with others are not just special here on earth, but will continue to be special in heaven. Also from St. Catherine's "Dialogues":
And though they are all joined in the bond of charity, they know a special kind of sharing with those whom they loved most closely with a special love in the world, a love through which they grew in grace and virtue. They helped each other proclaim the praise and the glory of my name in themselves and in their neighbors. So now in everlasting life, they have not lost that love; no they still share love and share with each other even more closely and fully, adding their love to the good of all.
 In the end, I am hurting for those that are in such pain right now, but I am rejoicing that this pain will not last forever (even if now it is simply trying to get through one moment at a time).  I am sorry that they have this painful separation, but I am thankful that their loved ones in heaven are thinking as much about them as vice versa.


  1. M - I think this is one of your best posts and that is a pretty big feat, because I love everything you write. But really, this got to me this afternoon in a way that I needed badly. My favorite part (although it all good): "The pain and weakness of loving others is an insane, intense, and crazy journey. But the glory of it when you get to the top together and the sun starts to finally break out over the horizon is well worth the work. Suddenly, all the people in their beds who said it was too crazy of a journey to start have become the crazy ones as they miss out on that in the end."

    Yes, yes, yes, YES!!! This life is crazy, but it is well worth it. There is suffering and I will be the first to say I fear future suffering (additional miscarriages or alternatively no more pregnancies at all) - that scares the living crap out of me. BUT...if I don't try and give it my all, which for me is getting in shape, starting to eat better, getting more sleep, basically trying to be the best version of myself (am I the only one that think that sounds a bit corny...I digress)....I may miss out on the sunrise and all that awaits me at the top.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  2. Great reflection! It IS insane to love as Christ calls us to, but it is well worth it! I am glad you gave the disclaimer about your friend, I was totally thinking if you were dating him. Shows how nosy I am ;)

  3. This made me tear up...thank you. We received word last night that my great aunt passed...the last living member of my side of the family that was a practicing Catholic. Apparently in her last days all she said was the rosary, even when no one could understand it. She prayed for our family so much. Good visual on where she is now...

    And yeah, I was nosy like Kat too ;)

  4. This is a beautiful post, I must comment. I love the hiking analogy, as I said beautiful. I read it, loved it. My torture workout= 4 minutes on the eliptical once a week.

  5. Thank you for sharing your workout & also the paragraphs from St. Therese & St. Catherine. I agree ... too much death recently of moms & babies & loved ones. You wrote so beautifully here about love & loss. My prayers go out to those missing someone in heaven.

  6. This is such a beautiful reflection. The part about them waiting for us at the top had me in tears, so perfect and lovely. On side note, this workout sounds amazing, and exhausting, but mostly awesome!

  7. This is so beautiful. I love your analogy and the paragraph that JBTC mentions, too. Thank you for those quotes! You're right, it's not often that I think of them remembering us, but how wonderful to think that they are praying for us! Oh, and your hike sounds incredible! Well, in the yes, you're probably crazy, but oh what a reward at the top kind of way. :) I just love a good sunset/sunrise and I imagine it's all the more worth it after having to work to get there. Thank you for sharing this!

  8. Ahh, I miss hiking! Not backpacking - I've never missed carrying a 75 lb pack on my back - but hiking in the early morning to see a sunrise...there's nothing like it! Getting to the top of a peak is such an accomplishment, that no matter how miserable you were on the way up, you almost forget it once you've reached the top :).

  9. oh, man. I love you. you always have such a Christ-centered perspective. so healing to the soul. thanks for the beautiful words and the prayers and the way that you are SUCH an awesome friend. xoxoxo

  10. I always love reading your meditations. Your analogies are so beautiful and just fit so well! I've learned a lot from you. :) The pain doesn't last forever, and the reward in the end always makes it worth it!