Took a day trip with Fr. Richard, Frank and Mr. Bill to Lafayette for the funeral of one of our former parishioners; she & her husband had just moved down there during the holidays to be near their son as her health was precarious. It was a short and quiet service, and very, very cold and damp in the city of the dead where she was interred. Fr. Richard's homily, in lieu of a eulogy, spoke of comfort... emphasis on "fort", as in fortitude, rather than the modern usage of the word, meaning something more like relaxation or luxury.
I helped with the service by reading the Prayers of the People. I'm glad I could contribute something. Hearing the now-familiar prayers spoken at the graveside, bearing witness to someone else's grief, was strangely helpful to me. Empathy, compassion, shared pain. I know how it is to stand there and feel like everything has simultaneously gone chaotic and blank. Remember the end of the day on television, before there were twenty-four hour stations, when there would be an announcement, then the national anthem, followed by static and snow?
You knew nothing else was going to happen until morning. Even if you muted the sound and waited all night, nothing was going to happen until it was time. Patient, impatient, stubborn or not, didn't matter.
Fortitude. That is what it takes. Even when whatever it is happens to be stronger than we are, with fortitude we can keep breathing, keep walking, keep enduring. There's something about loving other people, truly loving them, wanting what's best for them even at a cost to yourself. I spent a lot of time in the last few months wishing that it had been me, that it made more sense to have been me, that in the greater scheme of things, it should have been me. But seeing that fresh pain in someone else's eyes? I wouldn't wish that on anyone.