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When my mother was given the news she was about to die of liver cancer, Fr. Krische responded to my tearful announcement of the bad news. “You are entering a new community now – the community of the suffering. They are all around us and we don’t realize it until we, too, enter significant suffering of our own. Then we begin to recognize them everywhere, and our pain is somehow more bearable.”
He was so right! From within my pain, I looked out at the world and saw, or felt, the pain of other people. As we passed – in grocery stores, at Church, on sidewalks – I would know a ‘fellow member’ of this ‘desert community’ by some new sort of sensory acuity. Often, I would realize they seemed to know me, too, and my suffering, without a word exchanged. Our eyes would meet…a slight nod…a moment of shared sorrow…a wisp of relief like a sip of water. For the parched soul in a hard, threatening environment, these knowings – sighting of the possibility of life – served as blessings and brought comfort that could only come from the depths of pain itself.
And, at the end of each day, beneath all that pain, I recognized the suffering of my Savior, who bore all the He did to lead me to an oasis where my mother now awaits me joyfully. I – little love, small seed of faith, scant hope – cling to that secret stream to this day.
Thus says the Lord: I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, …I will espouse her.(Hosea 2)
I’m brought out to the desert by my love.
It is a spacious place, empty and vast,
That calls my heart to hear, my soul to soar,
But first the deathly silence hushes me –
No leaves are whispering, no brook, no bird.
All praises here are spoken without sound.
No safety beckons the unwary guest,
No careless loves or travelers may thrive.
Yet there is life here in this barren waste.
Hearts beat beneath the spines, the sand, the sun.
Surprising, rich, and variously arrayed
In adaptation to the verge of death.
Bereft of ornament, exposed and mean,
Reduced now to survival’s sleek, lean lines,
These creatures have no excess, naught to spare.
And yet communion flourishes below
The surfaces of suffering and shade.
Scant hope clings bonded to the secret stream.
The desert denizens, a quiet mob,
Known only to the keen of eye and heart,
As thieves are known by thieves, and loves by loves,
The small society indwelt by pain
With senses sharpened by deep thirst perceives,
And somehow soothes companions on the way.
The cool night sky brings solace with the stars,
That shine like diamonds made of hardened tears,
Pointing beyond the barren, sun-cursed world,
To the oasis of our wedded bliss.
All the poems are now in one volume, and I’d love for you to have a copy! Click on the cover to buy it, and click here for the recordings of all the poems.