Sunday, September 11, 2016

Martyrs & Suffering

87 Days
Almost three month JJ doing some tummy time
One unique positive and difficult thing that has come from my heart breaking tragedy is having the world of suffering revealed in greater depth. My catastrophic experience of losing my best friend and soul mate on the day that was supposed to be our happiest has resonated with many people who in turn have opened up to me. This is true for multiple reasons. Sharry was a great light in the world and people take note when someone like her is extinguished at such a young age. The tragedy is many couples’ greatest fear...losing your most important person in a freak turn of events. Ultimately I think the key piece is that suffering exists for us all. And for many it is very deep and acute. I have been amazed both as a counselor and in my personal life with the depth and breadth of pain, loss, heartache, loneliness and frankly just plain shitty stuff that happens to good people everywhere.

I found a poetic observation along these lines in Sharry's journal written almost 3 years ago, September 19, 2013. "Life, by nature - is both a comedy and a tragedy. One story closes with a wedding night when another begins with a terminal illness. We will dance - and laugh - and die." (I fall deeper in love with her all the time..probably not healthy but true.)

page in Shar's journal...her "life work"
It is totally understandable if you feel like you are alone in whatever storm life has brought you. Social media often paints a very distorted view of reality. Your friends, family and casual associates appear to have life full of amazing experiences, beautiful smiles and never ending goodness. Rarely if ever is that the case 100% of the time...for anybody. As a counselor I am well aware of the power of being grateful and looking for the good but yet it must be acknowledged that we all have difficult things in our lives. One of my favorite quotes on the subject, “be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We must resist judging others but instead turn to compassion and love. It is important that we be as open as we can with our own pain because in so doing we open the doors for compassion, kindness and healing.

My favorite book I have read since 6/16 is Why bad things happen to good people by Rabbi Harold S Kushner. I think it should be required reading for all that have suffered in their lives, i.e. every last one of us. One of my favorite concepts that he writes about in the very last chapter is the idea that when tough things happen in life people can become martyrs for good or for evil. Here is a passage pregnant with meaning for those (myself most of all) in the midst of deep suffering:

The most important question we can ask about suffering is whom it serves. Does our suffering serve God or the devil, the cause of becoming alive or morally paralyzed? Not “Where does the tragedy come from?” but “Where does it lead?”

The facts of life and death are neutral. We, by our responses, give suffering either a positive or a negative meaning. Illnesses, accidents, human tragedies kill people. But they do not necessarily kill life or faith. If the death and suffering of someone we love makes us bitter, jealous, against all religion, and/or incapable of happiness, we turn the person who dies into one of the “devil’s martyrs.” If suffering and death in someone close to us brings us to explore the limits of our capacity for strength and love and cheerfulness, if it leads us to discover sources of consolation we never knew before, then we make the person into a witness for the affirmation of life rather than its rejection.

It would be very easy to despair and from my suffering grow bitter, hopeless, loveless, lonely, faithless and angry. I totally get why and how people do it. There are many long, dark nights when I do it as well.

BUT if my angelic Sharry by her tragic loss is a martyr then I am determined that she be a “martyr for God.” A martyr for love, peace and compassion. A martyr for living a full life of deep connection, breathtaking experiences and cherishing/protecting all living things.

Where does your suffering lead?

34 week couple picture


  1. I hear HOPE. For me, as a Christian, it is Christ, who suffered for and suffers with me.

  2. Words sometimes can soothe us. I pray for peace we all have lost and it's not easy . God will put people in your life and love will come again . Your son is a blessing and you are strong ! I admire you so much for sharing !

  3. I am so sorry for you and JJ's loss. I can't even begin to imagine the pain you are going though. I wish there were magic words to say to someone who is grieving so deep. But the reality is, there aren't. All I can say is that I'm praying for you. Praying that the Lord will shine his light on you, that there are more sunny days than dark rainy ones, that you feel a tangible love that has been lost! No one knows what you are going through... your circumstances are inconceivable. My heart aches. Please don't let the heartbreak you're going through be wasted! God is still with you. His promises still stand. Soak in His truths and let them seep into the deepest places of your heart rubbed raw with uncertainty and fear. Hold fast to Jesus and remember: This breaking of you will be the making of you! A new you! A stronger you! Strengthened not with the pride of perfection, but with the sweet grace of one who knows your intimate closeness with the Lord. Please, don't miss the Hope God offers, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed is spirit." Psalms 34: 18. There is a man named Davey Blackburn, who found his pregnant wife violently murdered. He was left to raise their young son, alone. He has a blog about dealing with so many different issues (only one in his shoes could understand fully). I believe this might be a great blog for you to read through. Another perspective from a young man in a similar situation. You are stronger than you know! Don't ever forget that.

  4. Your story reminds me so much of Joey and Rory's Story. I'm sure you might know about them, but please google Joey and Rory. He, too has a blog, and just did a documentary on his wife's life. I am crying my way through your blog entries with an aching heart for you. I don't have much advice to give, but I know this: Time. Take all of the time in the world you need to grieve. Time will be what helps you. I hope your heart heals someday because I'm sure Sharri does not want you to be sad for the rest of your life.