The family reunion was wonderful — reconnecting with beloved relatives and meeting new ones, too. I settled into my airplane aisle seat to return to Los Angeles, completely content about my summer vacation and ready to tackle the second year of graduate school at UCLA, which promised to be as exciting as the first.
Then came a jumble of people in the aisle, a frantic exclamation and a hardcover suitcase tumbled out of the overhead and cracked into my head and shoulder.
The pain was immediate. I was taken off the plane, strapped to a spine board and moved to the hospital, where X-rays revealed no breaks. The attending doctors cleared me for travel, but advised me to seek medical care back in LA. They also gave me two prescriptions, which the hospital pharmacy filled before I was discharged.
I returned home, made an appointment with student health and started to take the medication.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I was still in severe pain, but also oddly and profoundly felt myself fall into a darkness I haven’t experienced before or since. I began physical therapy and tried to prepare for the next quarter’s classes. But nothing lifted me out of the ever deepening “hole.”
At one point, at my lowest, I remember gritting my teeth and telling a dear friend I did not think I would ever, ever recover, and that nothing about my life would ever be good again. He was absolutely stunned by what I said. And, far from alarming me, his reaction provided me with a glimmer of hope — I knew, too, that this wasn’t like “me.” What was going on?
Throughout this time, I prayed (as did my friends and loved ones) and went to Mass. But even these things, usually so very comforting, seemed distant to me, as if even my relationship with Christ was foggy or veiled somehow. Physical pain combined with emotional pain — absolutely overwhelming me.
I kept praying for guidance. And when my regular doctor at student health returned, and I sat down with her, I told her everything. She looked at my chart and her face took on an expression of near-fear.
She said, “The two medications you are taking can, when combined over time, lead to depression or worse. You have to stop taking them.”
God provided that lifeline at just the right time. I grabbed hold and gradually the horrible fog cleared. Not an easy process, but with attentiveness to medical care and continued prayer and support from others, I emerged whole and with renewed and deepened compassion for others who have felt the same way, including the disciples who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday.
After Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross, and burial in the dark tomb, they had to have been sorrowful, confused, fearful. They didn’t understand the reason for Christ’s pain and suffering.
They were at their darkest time, seemingly separated from Jesus for good, forever. And they could have scattered to distant lands, given up entirely, and never known what happened next.
But instead, on Easter Sunday morning, they went together, women and men, and confronted the tomb, as hard as that had to have been. And instead of death, cold as stone, the stone was rolled away, the burial clothes empty. A blessed lifeline!
All was not “over and done,” but rather, just begun!
The wonderful entirety of the Gospel encourages and inspires us today. Whether we have been thrown into darkness (or been hit by it) or we witness it in our world, we are not alone in sorrow, not alone in our fear of the dark. But, together, we look. We see. We help one another understand the reality of pain, the possibility of joy, the newness of morning and the beauty of life and faith.
And Jesus envelops us all in warm, redeeming love.
(Pratt’s website is www.maureenpratt.com.)