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I Want it to be Over: Suffering and A Monster Calls} ?> Suffering makes me so tired; lugging physical and emotional burdens is draining. It makes happiness hard to feel and strains relationships. It makes me feel heavy, even on days when I’m not distracted by work or projects. Or perhaps especially on those days.
“Pain is the gift that nobody wants.” That’s what Philip Yancey writes in his book, Where is God When it Hurts? He’s talking about the fact that pain keeps us safe; it warns us not to keep our hand in a fire and tells us when there’s something wrong with our minds or bodies. But it’s hard to see it as a gift when that pain becomes unbearable.
Conor O’Malley is a twelve-year-old boy who watches his mother’s life drain out of her due to cancer. For over a year, he’s witnessed a vibrant, hopeful woman wither into an emaciated, fragile shadow of her old self. Anger and fear consume him, and that comes out in how he interacts at school and with family.
Conor’s negative emotions also manifest in a reoccurring nightmare. In it, he sees his mother falling off a cliff. He races to grab her hand and catches it before she plummets into an abyss. For a long time he grips her wrist with all of his might. She yells his name and for him not to let go. But every night he lets her fingers slip out of his, and she falls into a pit of darkness. He claims he could have held on longer, but lets go instead.
Why would he give up? Why would he let go? Why wouldn’t he fight for her? When a great monster comes walking, the beast demands that Conor tell this tale, to admit the bitter truth about why he lets his mother fall. Conor pleads not to, thinking that he will die if he confesses such a horrible thought.
Finally the Monster makes him scream, “BECAUSE I WANT IT TO BE OVER!”
When I read A Monster Calls, his scream struck me in a deep place. The recent film adaptation brought me to tears. In 2011, my parents separated, and it was one of the most painful periods in my life. Divorces take a lot of time, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of tears. Over a year, I watched my family crumble, and I just wanted it to be over. I wanted it to be done, even if it meant never seeing one of my parents again. I was so angry and tired of feeling hurt and alone. I was tired of having to endure the pain.
However pain manifests in our lives, we want it to release. This is why Conor took out his emotions by breaking things. He had so much inside that he had to get it out somehow. His way of doing it wasn’t healthy, but it provided him release. But it wasn’t until he finally talked about what was going on inside of him that he found the release he’d desired.
After Conor professes his innocent desire for his pain to end, he feels the full weight of his exhaustion. Then he sleeps at the foot of the yew tree from whence the monster came. It’s a relief admitting you aren’t strong enough to bear so much weight anymore.
No one likes to suffer. It’s against our nature to do so. We want to be happy and healthy and whole. When we suffer for a long time it is hard for us to endure. It is human for us to want it to end, even at the expense of others. That’s a tough thing to admit. And admitting that won’t mean my suffering will end. But it does make me aware of what I’m going through inside. Weirdly enough, understanding what I’m feeling can help me press on.
Conor’s mother passes away and his long suffering does finally come to an end, even if he has to endure her passing. The waiting was also over for me when my parents’ divorce completed. I knew that my parents being apart would be hard, but I felt relieved. And there’s no shame in wanting suffering to be over.
I wish the world wasn’t broken and suffering wasn’t a part of it. Even though pain can pass and lessen, it’s always there and it will be until I die. I hope, like Conor, I can continue to face my pain and confront my own emotions honestly.
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