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Triumphant Suffering

daffodils with butterflies

Almost, without exception, the most beautiful people I have met are the ones who suffer triumphantly. Pummeled by unbearable pain, they have every reason to give up and sit in the rubble of their despair, but something in them compels them to rise up and take the next courageous step. They stay on the front lines of battle, refusing to run, hide, numb or become bitter, and turn toward the storms of life to fight more fiercely until beauty is squeezed out of suffering. The one who can trudge through the valley of sorrow until they see a glimmer of hope on the horizon are true heroes. They don’t waste their pain, taking every opportunity to transform it into something good, noble and holy. A hero has to have tenacity and grit, determined to cut through any mountain, even when their spirit is withering from exhaustion. And after they have walked through the valley of weeping, they reemerge into life, bringing gifts they have gleaned on their wilderness journey. For some, the road of suffering leads to death, but even in death seeds of their life spread, touching and healing the lives of others. Author Joseph Campbell puts it this way: “Once the hero has trod the dark path or descended into the belly of the whale, his journey concludes with bringing the runes of wisdom or the golden fleece back to the kingdom of humanity.” The brave ones returning from battle mirror for people what they cannot yet see in themselves—persistence, endurance, hope, love and strength. Because of what they have been through, they have the potential to spark a fire in a heart that has given up. They are proof that it is possible to discover the holy in everything, even pain and suffering. As we walk out our life path, their stories become our strength and refuge and we find relief because they’ve suffered well.

Today, I learned our friend, Paul Toporowski died after a short battle with cancer. Paul modelled love well. His life and his suffering reflected strength, love and courage. Thank you, Paul for the legacy of love and bravery you leave behind for your family and friends. You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race and you have kept the faith. Now you can rest in glory.

THE BLESSING YOU SHOULD NOT TELL ME by Jan Richardson (A hero who has walked the wilderness of grief and blessed many with words of comfort)

Do not tell me

There will be a blessing in the breaking,

That it will ever be a grace to wake into this life

So altered,

This world so without.

Do not tell me

Of the blessing

That will come

In the absence.

Do not tell me

That what does not

Kill me

Will make me strong

Or that God will not send me more than I

Can bear.

Do not tell me

This will make me

More compassionate,

Move loving,

More holy.

Do not tell me

This will make me

More grateful for what

I had.

Do not tell me I was lucky.

Do not even tell me

There will be a blessing.

Give me instead

The blessing

of breathing with me.

Give me instead

The blessing

Of sitting with me

When you cannot think

Of what to say.

Give me instead

The blessing

Of asking about him—

How we met

Or what I loved most

About the life

We have shared;

Ask for a story

Or tell me one

Because a story is, finally,

The only place on earth

He lives now.

If you could know

What grace lives

In such a blessing

You would never cease to offer it.

If you could glimpse

The solace and sweetness

That abide there,

You would never wonder

If there was a blessing

You could give

That would be better

Than this—

The blessing of

Your own heart


And beating

With mine.

Taken from The Cure of Sorrow: A Book of Blessings For Times Of Grief

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