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What is worse than the actual event of death is the awareness of the degree of loss that comes with it. Simply announcing that someone has had “a peaceful death” does nothing to dampen the pain of it. When the death is a violent one, the deprivation—the sense of having been able to do nothing to have stopped the pain—burrows down into the center of the soul dark and endless.

Violent death, natural or not, haunts us at night and plagues us during the day. It stops time at the moment before the loss. It suspends us in an orbit of pain. Now what? What can possibly fix the lives that are left to mourn the dead who die out of time and at the hands of the uncaring, the indifferent, the institutionalized lackeys of the system?

Entire lives of multiple people can become disoriented by the loss of a loved one. Death is about far more than simply the life of the deceased. It marks in every life the moment after which nothing else is ever quite the same.

The question now becomes how it is possible to go on. How is it possible to compensate for, let alone replace, what has been lost? What is now denied the lives of those whose own life depended on the deceased in ways far beyond the economic, far beyond the mere matter of getting through the day, is not only irreplaceable, it is paralyzing. It is enough to stop the natural flow of life completely.

And then, too, what about the person whose life has been cut off, like black twine in dark night? What about the dead dream that can never now be completed? What happens to those who dreamed it together or trusted in its coming, whatever it was? These are empty times for everyone. These are times that crush spirits and stop hearts, abort plans and blur visions deeply. Life hollows out, one way or another, for everyone concerned. These are times that stretch faith in life to the break point. These moments suspend time for everyone.

The call to us at a time when great pieces of the future crumble in life is not so much to faith as it is to hope. Depression is the seedbed of hopelessness, the loss of surety that life must still somehow be full of good, however impossible it is to remember it, to see it, to trust it at this moment. Hope does not tell us that soon life will be the same again as it was before the loss. No, hope tells us that life will go on, differently, yes, but go on nevertheless. Hope tells us that the pieces are there for us to put together, if only we will give ourselves to the doing of it.

When Jesus dies on the cross, something entirely different rises. And that something is the call to us to make the best in life live again.

—from The Way of the Cross: The Path to New Life (Orbis) by Joan Chittister