On December 14, 2012, 20 children and 6 adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. So much pain! Where do the parents, siblings, family and friends put their pain?
Forty years ago, in January of 1972 my 14 yr old brother Tommy died. The family; my mom and dad, brothers and sisters crashed and burned that day. The pain was so very intense that I thought that I and my family could not possibly live beyond that day. Where do we put our pain?
Tommy’s death was the event that tore our family apart. Our parents were already on the verge of divorce, we siblings were carrying our own issues around with us. Now we were living on this island of guilt. Each of us spent many days and sleepless nights wondering what we missed, what we did or didn’t do to cause Tommy to hang himself. He was having a hard time in school. I guess he didn’t make friends well, but how could he when we kept moving all over God’s creation every year or so. He had a father who thought he was a sissy courtesy of our mom. He told mom how she was coddling him too much and making him a sissy.
I vaguely remember one day when Tommy came home with a puppy. It was white with some brown or black markings on it. Mom didn’t know he had it until one day she saw a tail wagging from under Tommy’s arm as she stood looking upstairs as Tommy walked into his bedroom. I think she hollered up something about the dog and Tommy replied, “His name is Pickles and he’s mine!” Well that cracked her up. I don’t know how long he kept Pickles, but I am hoping that he gave Tommy lots of joy while he had him.
When Tommy died each of our parents blamed the other. My mother blamed my dad for not giving him the attention he needed and my dad blamed my mom for being too easy on him. My mother blamed herself for being too hard on him. . .
Each of, us in turn, felt we had our own reasons to feel guilty. For my part I felt incredibly guilty because Tommy had called me earlier in the evening to ask if I would come out to play cards or something with him because he was bored. I told him I was just really tired and didn’t feel like driving out there at night. I told him I would see him tomorrow. Tomorrow never came. Where did I put that pain???
(I will say that my brother was a big fan of the rock star Alice Cooper. He couldn’t understand how he could hang himself on stage and not get hurt. . .my belief is that he tried that trick and he paid with his young life. I do not believe it was suicide, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible pain and suffering the entire family endured and still endure.)
If there is anything that I would like you to take away from this litany of pain is this: there is a place to put your pain. When I am suffering some pain, physical or mental, I place this pain at the foot of the Cross of Christ. I offer it to him as a way of allowing Christ to use that pain for very good things. I ask him to use this pain to take away my sins, I ask him to use this pain for my family members who may be suffering. I ask Christ to take that pain and use it to comfort another who I may not know, to help in a desperate situation.
I know that it sounds weird. How is that going to help me or anyone else? Believe me it does. It may not take your pain away right away, but you will know in a way that we can’t describe that your pain is worthy of the Cross of Christ. That by giving your pain to him, you are actively working with Christ to help redeem the world. There is such a thing as redemptive suffering; that is what Christ did, you are no different. When you do this, your pain and suffering is redeemed . . .you will know peace, you will know Christ.
Sandy Ozanich © November 16, 2013