I’ve found myself reading mystery novelist Louise Penny a lot lately. When the news and the world is horrible and dark, her novels are calming, a refuge of sorts, just like her fictional village Three Pines that can only be found by those who are lost. Penny’s novels don’t deny the darkness, nor do they minimize or turn away from the ugliness found in human nature. Penny does, however, present an alternative vision of genuine kindness and deep determination to do right in the face of unspeakable injustice and crimes.
Last week, Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled wrote a lovely piece on how we teach people to suffer (she gives a wonderful answer). It’s been in my head for the last week because it is such a difficult, pertinent question.
As I was finishing up one of Penny’s novels and reading the acknowledgements section, I was struck by what Penny wrote of her own life during the time she worked on the book: “Michael [her husband] has dementia. It has progressed, marching through our lives, stomping out his ability to speak, to walk, to remember events and names. Dementia is a marauder, a thief. But every hole it drilled has been filled by our friends. By practical help and emotional support.”
It is the final part of her thanks that took my breath away: “I wrote A Great Reckoning with the peace of mind that comes with knowing I too am safe and loved. And not alone.”
If I had to give an answer to the question of how to teach suffering, Penny’s words in the face of slowly losing her beloved husband are the best I could manage. Create community. Help find a way to let people know that they are safe. Loved. Not alone.
This post is a part of Microblog Mondays. If you’d like to read more, head on over to Stirrup Queens! Thanks to Mel for hosting and originating.