A sophomore Johnnie died one week ago tonight. Immediately, my mind jumped into action mode.
What can I do? How can I help?
These are typical ministry questions for me — typical life questions, really.
If I could just do more retreats, plan more liturgies, meet more students …
Maybe it would help if I say something, write something, bake something …
The next day, a colleague and I visited one of the student’s afternoon classes. We were trying to be proactive in our care. I wanted to make sure his classmates knew about the memorial service that night. I also hoped a little face time would answer my questions. I felt helpless. Their 21 year old friend was dead. No ministry could bring him back.
We made a brief announcement and then lingered outside the classroom door. After not too long, one student rushed out. Her eyes were puffy. Tears streamed down her flushed cheeks. She headed straight for the bathroom.
Again, my mind started with the questions. What good am I doing just standing here? Do I go check on her? Should I bring her some Kleenex?
I stayed put. She returned after a minute or two. Unsure of my next move, I stammered, “Is there anything, anything at all I can do for you?”
On this Triduum Eve, I’m struck again by her response.
“No,” she said emphatically. “But thank you so much for being here.”
Be here. Maybe it really is that simple. Not easy — definitely not easy — but pretty simple. Just be present.
The holiest days of the Christian year begin tomorrow. I spent much of today, as I did last Wednesday night, trying to figure out what I could do to enter into the experience.
Maybe if I read these books, journal this many pages, pray through these certain Scripture passages …
The grateful classmate reminded me that it’s not always about doing. Sometimes, the best thing is to simply be present. Let the moments come. Don’t fix or force. Just be.
There will be some really powerful stories shared these next three days about love and service, suffering and betrayal, death and resurrection. The journey to the cross is as intense as it gets. I can’t take on all the pain it carries. And I’m realizing now that’s not my job anyway. Jesus does the heavy lifting. All I can do is stand at the foot of the cross, like we stood outside the classroom door. In prayer, in liturgies, in community, I can be with Jesus this Triduum.
I can be. And that’s plenty good enough.