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Embracing my humanity

A year and a half after the sudden passing of my mother, my youngest brother, age 33, had a very acute case of leukemia. After two weeks, he also left us…Many people came to mourn with us, with flowers, candles, incense, prayers, Masses…and even very heartfelt tears.

And yet, surrounded and even carried by so much attention and affection, somewhere deep inside I felt disconsolate, lonely with a piercing loneliness!

That feeling continued to haunt me, like a strange, persistent murmur that grew till it finally invaded and took over my attention.

That was how I became aware of the existence of that part of my humanity that conveys some kind of message, very real, however incompatible it might be with the rational explanations and theories I learned during my human and Christian formation.

I talked to a little sister about it, and she advised me to consult a therapist specialized in guiding people through the experience of mourning. I wasn’t too convinced, but I made an act of trust and went. Then, as I worked my way through the process bit by bit, I discovered another source of grief, and then another: both buried deep in my memory. They involved the death of my older sister when I was 4, and that of my younger sister, the youngest in the family, when I was 10.

I endured all these losses, but it was only at that moment that I became aware how much it had felt as though they had been violently ripped away from me. I felt in myself a kind of anger, an urge to violence and to rebellion against God and, apparently in certain particular situations, against the people I happened to be with at the moment. I had suffered so much from this violence that had been done to me and which was beyond my control that sometimes I hurt others.

Letting another accompany me, lead me to that hidden place in my awareness in order to find buried within this very real and very fragile part of myself—it was a long road. I had to sit with that part of me, learn her language, so I could listen to her, weep with her sometimes, receive what she said without judgment or exhortation…With time I had the impression that she was trusting me, that she could learn to smile with me. And then she began to show me other wounded areas, buried away…

And so it was that in her company, I have lately been able to navigate the death—sudden once again—of my papa!

It seems to me that walking this road has allowed me to encounter the incarnate God in a real way, as though at one moment He became “one” with me, right down to that fragile and vulnerable place.  (That is not to say that my prayer life is easy; I have doubts, I struggle, I don’t always know how to pray, and it causes me suffering). But that “certain moment” is deeply true, because I can see that today I’m able to understand other little sisters who have been wounded. I can be compassionate with their suffering, and even with their hardness and violence. It’s the sign that He is there, and that He’s in the process of creating, isn’t it?

L.Sr. Emmanuelle-Linh