Someone I love is in a dark place, bereft of hope, sodden with a grief that wounds and wounds with every resurrection. Every lift and turn of head brings into focus the loss that cuts deep. There is no escaping it. No forgetting, no momentary relief. Strength has gone to the grave, hearts weep and chafe for a light now gone.
At the first stain of pain, we both prayed our hearts out, joined by other loving souls from across the world. There was hope and light and a future. But then, something changed overnight.
Something’s not right, my prayers are not being received, I realize.
I plough on. She has fallen. Pray to St Joseph, invoke him, I tug her to her feet insistently. And I share a lot about St Joseph after that, so she seeks him as I did and do. But the resistance strangely deepens. I ache with a frustration which I hide – to not add another cross to the grief. I want nothing more than to reach out and press the balm of healing into a wound that bleeds. To stretch out my hand, and light up every darkness, banish each shadow to its lair of lament.
Yet, no power do I have. There is little I can say or give that will turn sorrow into joy. I am no replacement for what has left never to return. I am unable to bud and bloom the rose of hope for her.
No power do I have, no power do I have.
And we both slump, tired.
I see the darkness of despondency encroach quickly in the wounded heart of my loved one, shores and waters away. The prayers continue to fall into a vacuum, novenas bounce off invisible walls. My loved one screams for reprieve, for a glimmer of hope that lets one put one foot in front of the other. Yet, unexpectedly, no hand from Heaven reaches out. A wall of silence meets each weeping entreaty.
I worry. I can sense her giving up, the tenuous grip on life and hope, loosening. I pray to compensate for her. But when I battle on, I sense I’m being restrained. Doors being closed. I fret because I think I prayed all the right prayers – to restore hope, to heal the wounds, dry the tears, light the path ahead. Yet, they’re not being received.
Why, why, why?
Why has Heaven suddenly put a Hand up against my sincere prayers?
I want answers. I turn to St Joseph – the saint of interpretation – of not only dreams, but of every manner of twist and turn of path. I beg his discernment. Why, why, why? I ask him. Why did you not help her as you helped me?
And it comes, on a lily-breath:
I am your journey, not hers, he presses on my heart.
And there it was, laid out plainly and directly.
I am your journey, not hers. No two journeys are the same, however similar they may seem. No two valleys, no two peaks will ever be the mirror image of the other. And it is not my call to make it thus. I cannot play God. I cannot take His place, and commandeer the path others must take – be it a course of action, or a saint to invoke, or a novena to say – even if it worked for me. God must be allowed to lead unhindered, each pilgrim soul through the valley of grief. I cannot, should never, take the lead, even if it seems so right.
And when the arrow of humility finally finds its mark in my bowed soul, a sudden power of strength and hope surges through me. Gone are the muddy shadows and lethargy. Gone is the wall, the resistance. I see my failing in my pride that I knew it all, but I see too Heaven’s mercy extended in the fresh blossoming of hope come alive in my soul.
My tread is more contrite now. It is learning to follow the Light ahead. It understands it should never lead.