Betty Duffy

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Monday, May 25, 2009

People All Over America Were Contemplating the Problem of Evil...And Then it Rained.

Early this morning, I went for a run at my parents’ house. They live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields, small rocky creeks, and woods that are mungy and green as a jungle at the moment. A threat of rain hung in the air, but it was cool enough that the mosquitoes didn’t cluster in the ditches and dips in the road.

I decided to run hills, which took me past the home of my parents’ illustrious neighbors: in the mid-nineties, a grown son, one of eight children, murdered his mother, father, and several siblings with a rifle, in broad daylight, at various points around their homestead. Some bodies were found in the house, some in the barn, some in the yard. He lived on grubs as a fugitive for several months, and was eventually found in a woods in Kentucky and put in jail. A surviving brother still occupies the home where the murders took place.

I’m still afraid every time I pass the property, and especially on an overcast holiday morning when not another soul is on the road. I wonder about the surviving brother, how he can walk around in the presence of such ghosts. He keeps the blinds on the front of the house closed tight at all times because his stigmatized property is a well-known point of interest for people in this neck of the woods. Even so many years later, his life takes place in the rear of the home.

I’ve been in and out of a dark mood lately, if you haven’t noticed. It happens sometimes. And contemplating the thin line between sanity and insanity, trying to make sense of how a child could lose it and open fire on his brothers, sisters and parents, brought all of my motherly fears to a crest. If I had to look down the barrel of a rifle that my child pointed at me, I would not weep for my life, but for his, and for his survivors’. How many different ways are mothers’ hearts pierced by the suffering of their children?

At that moment the sky opened up and rain fell in sheets. I don’t remember the last time I was caught outside in a rainstorm. As a mother, I’m trained to see the signs of impending weather and heed them. But if I needed, at that moment, to experience the Sacramental everyday, God gave me a Baptism that could wash away even the most incomprehensible sins. Within minutes I was soaked down to my underclothes, and had to hold my pants up as the water increased its gravitational pull on them. My darkness and worry turned instantly to exhilaration.

It sounds almost too cute that relief could occur at the precise moment that the weather delivered on its threat in such a location. An ominous overcast sky is uncertain and seductive. A good rain is joyous and of the moment. And who am I that God would make it rain because I needed it to rain right then and there? But it did rain, and I want to think that God was telling me I had no need to make the acquaintance of despair. If the presence of the evil in this world seems too large a threat to face, the rain says God is bigger.

So I ran on home, puddle jumping and feeling so gleeful that when an old farmer in his pick-up pulled up and said, “Need a lift?” I said, “No thanks. I feel great!” Not sure why I needed to inform the farmer of my mood in order to decline his ride. He shrugged his shoulders to say, “Suit yourself,” and drove on. And I wanted to call him back and say, “No, really, don’t take it personally. I don’t think you’re a weirdo for offering me a ride. I’m not afraid of this world. I’m just too happy to come in from the rain.”

Maybe the rain is just an easy solution for Betty, whose greatest suffering is fear of the unknown, but she'll take it, nonetheless. People go on living their lives after unthinkable tragedies. Mothers continue to have children even when faced with the problem of evil. Maybe all the evils of the world don't come with a magic rainstorm to cleanse the Earth in their aftermath, but the survival of people who have suffered is a testimony to the Mystery, Sacrament, and miracle that are the salve for the suffering in life.

6 comments:

Kristin T. (@kt_writes) said...

Every time I visit your blog, your writing and your perspective just fill me up. I feel like I was just whisked away to glimpse at something holy, before being deposited back at my desk and computer.

I love it all, but especially this:

"And who am I that God would make it rain because I needed it to rain right then and there? But it did rain, and I want to think that God was telling me I had no need to make the acquaintance of despair. If the presence of the evil in this world seems too large a threat to face, the rain says God is bigger."

Jeb Dickerson said...

Beautiful, Betty. You've put three of my dearest experiences - running, writing & parenting - together in a way that is so moving. Thank you for sharing yourself, and in so doing, causing me to take another look inward, and to appreciate my lot yet again.

TS said...

You had me at the title...

Lisa said...

Wow. Gosh, glad I came by today. You write so very well. And speak what we all feel. And then some.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across a reference you left to your blog on Babble.

I'm not Catholic and, quite simply, don't believe in god. But I think your writing is beautiful and love this post.

eaucoin said...

I have had the occasion to watch a child of mine suffer, and when it happens, the Holy Spirit reminds you that you're not alone at the foot of the cross, because Jesus' mother is right there next to you. When the world says "God couldn't be everywhere so He invented mothers." I think no, "Our mothers couldn't be everywhere so God gave us Mary."