One of the main lessons from the retreat I'd been on the weekend before Dan and I broke up was "give thanks for all things in your life," a la St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
The next morning as I spent some time in prayer, I sat in my living room thinking about this. The more I thought, the more I realized that I couldn't do it.
"God, I am thankful for the life we had together.
I am thankful for the time we had together.
I am thankful for the LIFE you gave us in the midst of all that uncertainty and the disease.
I am thankful for the person Dan was, his faith, the lessons he taught me, for his love and the way that he loved me.
I am thankful for us.
I am beyond thankful that in the wake of his death, you have become more present to me than ever. I am thankful for how you have carried me.
I am thankful for the ways you have provided for me in the past year+.
I am thankful for the people you have brought into my life since Dan's death.
...but, I just...I'm not thankful for his death.
...and even for all the good that may come, God...still...I can't. If you want me to be thankful for this, then you'll have to change my heart."
That evening, I went to worship and adoration. The event had been fine. Not mountain-moving, but time with Jesus is always good. Toward the end, I was thanking God and talking to Dan about just how crazy it was that I was here...in no way could I have guessed nine years ago, as I was thanking God that He'd brought Dan into my life (even though he didn't think he was man-enough for me)...that 9 years later, here I would be - a Catholic, doing a super-Catholic thing, adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
...and then, I thought about my morning prayer. ...and I heard,
"I'm not thankful for Dan's death, either. I don't expect you to be. I'm not thankful for anyone's death."
Many of us who have experienced great loss will wrestle with trying to understand God's goodness in the wake of what comprehensibly does not seem good. At all. Ever. No matter how much life may come in the wake...that death was not good. We need to hear that God does not look at death as a good thing.
God doesn't will death - but it is allowed. Death is the natural consequence to sin; sin is separation from God. Sin cannot exist in the presence of Divine Holiness, Life itself. ...and, death is the ultimate consequence: separation from life. We will all experience death because we are human; the presence of original sin, the consequence of fallen humanity. Death is that awful consequence.
...but, it is not the final say. Jesus came to destroy death and the barrier it created to our eternal existence with the Divine. Jesus came and died to destroy death. Jesus' resurrection is our sign that death has, eternally, been destroyed - and our life, united with God, has been restored.
Now, united to Jesus through baptism and faith in his life, death and resurrection: death is simply a room we will pass through onto life: united with the One who destroyed death.
We don't have to be thankful that death exists. We don't have to be thankful that death has separated us from those we love. We can be righteously angry that death exists.
BUT: we must also acknowledge that death is NOT the final word because of Jesus. Death need not separate us from the love of God that it is in Jesus. Death need not separate us from the ones we have loved. We CAN rejoice and be thankful that Jesus has destroyed eternal death and separation in his body, through his death. We can be thankful that this is NOT the end. We can return to joy (rejoice!) again and again and again because JESUS.