Medical examiners develop a sixth sense about some things.
Part of it comes from the fact that we tend to be natural cynics. Some of it comes from experience. Given the chance, it seems mankind will not often pass up an opportunity to prove the worst about itself. Some of it is a desire to be proved wrong, once in a while. Rarely happens.
I haven’t had to deal with such things for many years now—and dealing with the seamy side of life is one of the reasons I abandoned the medical examiner trade. Living my life immersed in the dreadful things that people do to hurt each other sent me back to church these many years ago. I was glad to abandon the suffering I saw and absorbed even as I embraced the faith.
A couple of weeks ago, something surfaced on the periphery of my world that stirred up the medical examiner instinct again. I repressed it for many reasons, all of them good, proper, and logical, not the least of which was a desire not to think the worst of anyone without real information. But there was still that feeling.
Today brought news on that proved to me I haven’t lost my touch. Everything I was worried about turns out to be so, and I am left feeling physically sick.
My mind keeps asking, why, God, do you let things like that happen? I pray for the vulnerable and still they suffer and it seems like the prayers are wasted, meaningless, empty, lost….
I keep looking at the cross for the answer, and I don’t like that answer, God. I want another one. But I keep looking at the cross.
At the center of my self, I know that as much as I would like to protect the vulnerable, I can’t. I realize that my Ph.D. in guilt is working on me when I turn over and over in my mind what I might have done differently. At that same center of my self, I acknowledge that there is absolutely nothing that I could have done that would have changed the reality of today. Suddenly, I’m not just looking at the cross, I am looking at the foot of the cross.
I don’t like that answer either. But I keep looking at the women, especially, at the foot of the cross.
Why do you let things like that happen? starts being overshadowed by What makes you think there’s a God at all, let alone one who cares?
I’m learning, over and over, that part of the Christian walk really is about being helpless in this world, sometimes in the discovery that great evil has been at work. Being Christian sometimes means hurting not just for ourselves and our own but those to whom we are connected by the most tenuous of threads and the strongest of bonds because we are God’s children. For the record, I am not fond of that answer, either. Please God, don’t let suffering—mine or anyone else’s—take me away from You. Don't let it take those who suffer more keenly away either.
Forgive me for thinking of my own pain at all. I still have much to learn.
Right now, all things that can be done in this world in the face of this evil are being done. Those things don’t involve me, as much as I want to fix things for others. All I can do is what Holy Mother Church teaches me to do. And I have to do something.
I join my suffering, as vicarious as it is, to the cross. I try to be present, even vicariously, with those who suffer. I stand at the cross, looking up, and I stand at a distance, looking on. I offer what I can. I will pray, do penance, give alms. Suddenly, in the midst of a season that has seemed up to now placid and reassuring, I find that I am walking deeply, in great sadness, through Lent.
Please God. We need Easter.