I’m part way through an advance copy of Amy Welborn’s forthcoming book, Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope, which chronicles a trip she took to Sicily with three of her children five months after the sudden death of her husband, Michael Dubruiel. By that description I don’t mean to suggest that the book is merely a travelogue (although I’m guessing that by the time I’m done I’ll be exploring when I can make my first trip to Sicily). Rather, it explores, in a deeply personal way, the questions about death and faith (and love) we experience when working our way through our grief at the loss of a loved one.
An avid reader of Amy’s blogs for years, I am more familiar with her work than with her late husband and his work. But as I learn more about him from what she writes in this book, I realize already that it only takes two words to know the most important thing about him. Two words that say the most important thing all of us need to understand: God alone.
God alone. When we understand God alone, as Michael Dubruiel clearly did, we know that we cannot rely on anyone or anything other than God for our happiness. Amy writes:
Because that’s what he always said when I raised it, when I looked to him for reassurance about happiness. I would do that whiny thing and I would ask him, Do I make you happy?, and he would sigh and say that he would be in bad shape indeed if his happiness depended on my existence. Not because he wasn’t happy now, but because he needed to be “happy” – at peace – whether I was around or not, no matter if he liked his job or not, or whatever was going on or whoever was around him. He’d make his case as he always did that our happiness shouldn’t depend on anything except God. I should be able to be happy, he’d say, even if you died tomorrow. He’d take his eyes off the television set and look at me.
And so should you.
I’ve said before that one of my daily prayers is St. Ignatius’ Suscipe: “Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will – all that I have and call my own. You have given it all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours: do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”
As I often tell retreatants and others to whom I talk about the Suscipe, sometimes I feel like I come close to really meaning the words. Your love and your grace are enough for me. God alone.
God alone. I pray that I can grow in faith to be able to say the words with as much conviction as Michael Dubruiel possessed.
I’ll have more to say about Amy’s book when I’m finished reading it, although I can already tell you it is one you will want to read. That I haven’t yet finished it has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with getting my daughter off to Lawrence for her first year of college. (Move-in is this morning. God alone.)
In a previous life I really took Philippians 3:8,10 seriously, a passage quite similar to Suscipe.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Not so much anymore.
Lord have mercy on me a sinner.