Remember when Jesus was praying in the garden? St. Mark records that he was “deeply grieved, even to death”. He said to Peter, James and John: Remain here, and keep awake.
As a pastor I have been with people who are dying. I have prayed with them and for them. But to tell the truth, the ones my heart breaks even more for are those who are “remaining with them”, staying awake with them. Staying with a person you love who is suffering and dying – especially if the process is prolonged – can take a very large toll on you.
Jesus suffered tremendously in the garden. Somehow, because of fatigue perhaps, or maybe they simply had not grasped the seriousness of the situation, the disciples couldn’t even stay awake with him. He did not want to be alone. To be with a person who is suffering and whose pain you have no ability to alleviate – I wonder if the disciples simply couldn’t bear it.
When I walk away from such situations – a man or woman keeping vigil by the bedside of a cherished partner – I pray for both. I pray that the pain of dying will be eased and that Jesus’ presence will make itself known. I pray that the deep grief and sadness, as well as the physical and emotional exhaustion of the care-givers will also be eased. Theirs is a heavy burden.
On this Tuesday of Holy Week, think of Jesus facing false accusations, betrayal, the denial of his most trusted friends, a trial, and execution. And think of those who loved him. And then, think of the people you know who are on the journey of caring for the dying. If it is appropriate, you might extend yourself to them with a call or a note – just to let them know that, even as they are marking time with their loved ones, you are marking time with them, holding them in prayer. Let them know they are not alone.
More than anything, that seems to be what Jesus wanted his followers to know – “I am with you.”
A blessed Tuesday.