Although at the beginning of our relationships we seldom talk about it, pain is as much a part of love as joy. In Fredrick Buechner’s novel “The Book of Bebb,” Antonio talks with a friend about the terminal illness of his twin sister Miriam. He confesses, “If I could have pushed a button that would have stopped not her pain but the pain of her pain in me, I would not have pushed it because, to put it quite simply, my pain was because I loved her, and to have wished my pain away would have been somehow to wish my love away as well.”
Sometimes the greatest pain that our love must bear is the anguish in our own hearts caused by the pain in those we love the most. To stand by helplessly as someone we love suffers and, perhaps, dies is agony beyond words.
I’m overwhelmed every time I read John’s account of our Lord’s death: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother.” What powerless vulnerability and yet what incredible strength! To choose to suffer the pain of a loved one is to love indeed!
This week, Bert, my close friend of 60 years, crossed over that great river after a long and painful struggle — tormented by failed eyesight and the futile longing for one more trip to the mountains of New Mexico. I watched with great admiration as his wife and children refused to let his pain drive them away.
Their vigil reminded me of how my own father cared for my mother as she made her “long day’s journey into night.” In poor health himself and unable to drive, many days he walked over a mile from his apartment to the nursing home to be at my mother’s side — not knowing whether she was even aware of his presence.
These are but a few examples of a multitude of people — spouses, children, siblings, extended family, friends, and caregivers — who have and are bearing the pain of watching those they love suffer and face death. They are there by choice because of their love. They are heroes in another kind of war.
While such suffering can be depressing, it can also be inspiring. When we love like this — when we suffer because we refuse to turn away from the pain of those we love — we are like our Heavenly Father. The suffering of God is the pain of seeing his children suffer. The Lord’s heart is broken by our brokenness. But he does not turn away from us. He sent his Son to assure us that his steadfast love endures forever!
Lord, thank you for loving us enough to bear the pain of our suffering in your great heart. Thank you for all those people, present and past, who have embraced, not only the joy of love, but also love’s pain. Grant us courage and strength that our love might endure. Amen.
John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.