Graham's Mom asked me yesterday what I had learned in seminary that helped after Josh's death. I thought about that question for several hours, shifting it this way and that, pondering things I explicitly "learned," or at least addressed, and re-living the encounters and friendships where most learning takes place.
Then this morning the following quote appeared on the dotMagis blog:
From his own experience Ignatius learned the essential importance of spiritual freedom. One can claim grace as genuinely and uniquely his or hers only if the conditions for a free encounter be sustained. Perhaps an even more crucial reason lies within the Ignatian understanding of discernment and its relationship to Christ. For Ignatius, Christ symbolized the privileged moment of human and divine encounter both within Jesus’ own consciousness and in his relationship to Abba, the beloved Father.
Discernment is not so much technique as it is an awareness of how God moves within one’s life and within the events that surround a person. Discernment for Jesus was whatever in him and in his mission—his work—led to life and to love, not to death and enmity. Consequently, Jesus’ choices, even his willingness to die faithful to his mission to reveal a loving Father, were expressions based on the affirmation of life and love over death and enmity. For this reason, in the act of discerning love, Ignatius saw the epitome of the Christian imitation of Christ.
~Howard Gray, SJ
and I recognized: that was it. To affirm life and love over death and enmity. That was what I learned in that year of the Spiritual Exercises; that is the phrase, in one form or another, that has sustained me through the past four years.
The suicide of a loved one, particularly of a child or spouse, brings such a torrent of death and enmity into your life that you are knocked down in the floodwaters of evil, over and over and over again.
I was very much graced by God, certainly not in my son's death, but in the fact that I had heard those words, and the words in which they are embedded, and begun to try to live them, in the years before he died. And there was grace again in the re-hearing of them in conversations and emails and letters in the weeks and months and years that followed.
You most probably can hear and see those words echoed in the prayer that I offered at the suicide prevention walk (a few posts back). They are close to second nature to me now.
Well, ok; maybe more like tenth nature. The living out of anything even slightly brave and hopeful in the face of a child's suicide is a difficult thing. But having the words does help.