The “Happy” Station

by Lois Donahue

EXCERPT: “My thoughts took me beyond the artist’s presentation of her, to the real, flesh and blood woman who actually lived through that horror. I became aware of a mother standing helpless near the foot of the cross on which her child was dying.”

Whenever I meditate on the Way of the Cross, trying to imagine what those terrifying hours must have been really like, I sorrow as I stand before each station; with the exception of one – the twelfth. For me, JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS has become the “happy” station.

I was startled when such a thought first entered my mind. Associating happiness with the death of Jesus seemed somehow sacrilegious. However, each time I approached the carved depiction of that event, the idea returned. One day I decided to go with it – to see where it would lead me.

I stopped before the twelfth station and looked up. First at Mary. My thoughts took me beyond the artist’s presentation of her to the real, flesh and blood woman who actually lived through that horror. I became aware of a mother standing helpless near the foot of the cross on which her child was dying.

By this time, on that particular Friday afternoon, she most likely knew there would be no last minute, life-saving miracle – that Elijah was not coming to “take him down”. Perhaps, by this time, she also knew that all of this horrendous agony was, in some mysterious way, part of Jesus being about his “Father’s affairs”. For certain she did know, from his despondent cry; “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” that her son was in excruciating pain.

At that point, although still remaining his faithful handmaid, this heartbroken mother MUST have begged her Lord to ‘let it end’ and she MUST have felt a brief moment of happiness when the end did come – when there was no more pain for him – when JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS.

My thoughts of death and happiness did not stop with Jesus and Mary. I looked down from the station and thought about so many of us who have watched a loved one painfully struggle toward an inevitable death. How, out of love and faith, we prayed for the mercy of death. Then, at their last breath, in that instant before we were engulfed in the grief of our own loss, didn’t we feel a sense of happiness – for them?

Then there were my thoughts about St. Joseph being the “Patron of a Happy Death – about Thomas Merton using the phrase, “O Happy Death” _ and about recently leafing through a book of Catholic prayers and seeing; “Prayer For A Happy Death”.

I recalled the words of Jesus: “If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live.”

I remembered what I’d been taught and have come to believe about death – that everlasting life with God is our intended destiny and that death can be for us, if not the actual threshold step into heaven, at the very least a guaranteed giant step in that direction.

All of these thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of minutes. It took me just that long to KNOW that for those who try their best to live according to God’s will, happiness is meant to be a companion of death – perhaps not of the ANTICIPATION OF DEATH nor of the PROCESS OF DYING but certainly of the moment of death itself. I knew, too, that it would not necessarily be a joyous, cheerful, obvious kind of happiness but rather a peaceful, contented, beatitude kind of happiness that would take death gently by the hand.

I looked up again at the twelfth station and smiled. Not only did I see a spark of light along the dark sorrow of Christ’s passion; I had found a forever reminder that no matter along what seemingly unbearable “way of the cross” life might lead me, somewhere there will be a ‘station’ that will lift me even beyond the expectation of hope to the assurance of promise.

What’s not to be happy?