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Nobody Knows the Trouble Iíve Seen, Nobody Knows but Jesus: A Meditation on a Grief Observed
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | 05-21-15 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 05/22/2015 7:18:55 AM PDT by Salvation

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Nobody Knows but Jesus: A Meditation on a Grief Observed

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

CHarles Pope with Mary Anne Pope ca 1965_edited

As a follow-up to the recent post on comforting the sorrowful, I was led to consider the grief of my parents and the difficulties they faced in raising a daughter with serious mental illness.

My father died eight years ago, and except for essential papers related to his estate, I simply boxed up most of his papers and stored them in the attic of my rectory for future attention. At long last I am sorting through those boxes. Among his effects were also many papers of my mother’s, who died about two years before he passed away.

I discovered many things that moved me. As I read through the various papers, I was reminded that many of us never really know the pain and grief that others bear. In particular, I was struck by the poignant file that was simply labeled, “Mary Anne.” (A photo of my father and sister is at right.)

My sister Mary Anne was tragically afflicted with mental illness from her earliest days. My parents knew there was trouble early on when she did not speak a word until she was well past two, and even then only at home. She had a pathological shyness that led her to shut down in the presence of others outside the home. The counselor at her elementary school spoke of Mary Anne as “disturbed” and insisted on psychiatric care for her by the time she was six.

Discretion and brevity limit what I intend to share here, but Mary Anne was deeply troubled. By age 13, she had to be hospitalized and spent the remainder of her life in 15 different mental hospitals and 6 different group homes. She was often able to visit with us and even stay over on weekend passes. She had stretches during which she was stable, but soon “the voices” would return, as would the dreams that afflicted her. Her psychotic episodes often led to running away, outbursts of violence, and attempts at suicide.

Through all of this, my parents fought very hard for her, and to be sure she got the care she needed. This often led them to various courts and generated much correspondence with insurance companies, state mental health officials, and private hospitals where she was confined. Indeed, during her lifetime my parents made many sacrifices for Mary Anne, both financial and personal, to ensure her care. At one point in the early 1970s, aware that Mary Anne felt isolated in the house with three brothers and desperately wanted a sister, my parents even went so far as to seek to adopt a baby girl.  They filed paperwork and came very close, but the plan ultimately fell through. The baby sister we never had …

Maryanne died in a fire in the winter of 1991 at the age of 30. She likely had a hand in that fire; she had set fires before when the “voices” told her to. I could see the pain on her face as her body lay in the casket and I wept when I saw her. The funeral director explained that there was little he could do since her skin had been singed in the fire. She had clearly been crying when she died—a grief observed.

My father wrote this on the frontispiece of her file:

Mary Anne Pope was our first child.
She led a tortured existence during a short life
and fought hard against great odds.
We remember her for her courage
.

And as I read my own parents’ touching recollections of Mary Anne, I could not help but moved, too, by their own pain. Such a heavy grief punctuates each page. I give them great credit for the fact that they insulated the rest of us, their three sons, from the most of the dreadful details of poor Mary Anne’s struggle. They kept their pain largely to themselves and stayed available to us. It is true that there were episodes we had to know about, but as a young boy and teenager I saw in my parents only strength and stability when it came to this matter. I saw my father’s grief and pain for the first time as he wept, standing there at the funeral home looking at my sister—a grief observed.

After my sister’s death, my mother’s grief grew steadily worse, causing her struggle with alcohol to worsen as well; she became increasingly incapacitated. Her life ended tragically and suddenly on a cold February day. My father had looked away for only a brief moment, going into the kitchen to make a sandwich, and mom wandered out into a snowstorm. Incapacitated by alcohol and disoriented, she died of hypothermia. We found her body only after three days of searching, when the snow melted a bit. She had died almost a mile away, near the edge of the woods—a grief observed.

My father never quite forgave himself for letting her slip away. The open front door, a first sign of trouble; the searching on a dark, frigid, and stormy night; the steady awareness, “She’s gone.” Those memories haunted him. In the months that followed, he often wondered how he could go on when half of him was gone. He, too, was gone within two years. His congestive heart failure worsened and he died in 2007, literally and figuratively of a broken heart—a grief observed.

All these thoughts sweep over me as I look through this file labeled simply, “Mary Anne.” I pray, dear reader, that I have not lingered too long for you on these personal matters. But the truth is, all of us carry grief, and perhaps this story will help you with your own, which I pray is not too heavy.

There is an old spiritual that says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.” And it is a mighty good thing that he does know. Sometimes the grief is too heavy even to share, even to put into words. But Jesus knows all about our troubles. There is a beautiful line in the Book of Revelation that refers to those who have died in the Lord: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Rev 21:4-5)

For my brave parents and courageous sister, who all died in the Lord but who died with grief, I pray that this text has already been fulfilled, and that they now enjoy that everything is new—a grief observed no longer.

Requiescant in pace



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; grief; msgrcharlespope; sickness
Video I

This second video I made on what would have been my parents 50th anniversary. I picked the song “Cold enough to snow,” since it spoke to my Father’s grief in losing mom on that snowy night.

Video II

1 posted on 05/22/2015 7:18:55 AM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...

Monsignor Pope Ping!


2 posted on 05/22/2015 7:21:40 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Wow! Just Wow!


3 posted on 05/22/2015 7:27:24 AM PDT by sauropod (I am His and He is mine.)
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To: Salvation

What a sad, yet very moving post today touching two subjects we don’t like to talk about.

mental illness
alcoholism


4 posted on 05/22/2015 7:30:27 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Many alcohol are self medicating their mental illness. Mr. M and I raised two special needs children. We each have relatives in our past who had mental illness back when there really was nothing to be done except heavy drugs like thorazene and shock treatment. Now the meds are pretty amazing if the patient is okay with taking them. There are new forms of therapy also which can give people like the Msgr’s sister tools for coping. But again, not much can be done to force an adult into it and some therapy is crap and some psychiatrists are just pill pushers.


5 posted on 05/22/2015 7:55:32 AM PDT by Mercat (Release the HildeKraken)
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To: Mercat

I found out in my 30’s we had a great-aunt that spent most all her life in a mental ward. All we’ve been told is her mother died when she was 14-15 years old and she developed “Melancholia”. I often wonder if she was simply grieving/depressed and family, physicians didn’t understand how to deal with people like her. Breaks my heart that she lived such a sad life.


6 posted on 05/22/2015 8:50:45 AM PDT by bonfire
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To: Salvation

Saved the song in my music files. Lovely.


7 posted on 05/22/2015 8:51:36 AM PDT by bonfire
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To: bonfire
One of the reasons there are now ministries like this one.

Beginning Experience, a peer facilitated weekend for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one whether through death, divorce or separation.

8 posted on 05/22/2015 8:54:10 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

He knows and understands our “trouble(s),” because, as we are told, He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” What a comfort!


9 posted on 05/22/2015 10:17:20 AM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: Salvation

Msgr. Pope is a truly amazing priest. How he churns out such profoundly deep reflections on a daily basis is beyond my comprehension. May God continue to bless him and his ministry.


10 posted on 05/22/2015 2:03:27 PM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
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To: NYer

My thoughts exactly.


11 posted on 05/22/2015 8:48:39 PM PDT by asyouwish (Philippians 4:8)
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To: Salvation

I try to remember that I do not know what challenges, suffering and tragedies people are facing when they act in a way that’s not the greatest. Some people have broken hearts and need prayers, acceptance and love. I pray Jesus leads me deeper into forgiveness, compassion and understanding for myself and others.


12 posted on 05/24/2015 9:55:01 AM PDT by SaraJohnson
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To: Salvation

I try to remember that I do not know what challenges, suffering and tragedies people are facing when they act in a way that’s not the greatest. Some people have broken hearts and need prayers, acceptance and love. I pray Jesus leads me deeper into forgiveness, compassion and understanding for myself and others.


13 posted on 05/24/2015 9:55:58 AM PDT by SaraJohnson
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