A Personal Understanding of Suffering -- By: Emöke Tapolyai

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 31:0 (NA 1999)
Article: A Personal Understanding of Suffering
Author: Emöke Tapolyai

A Personal Understanding of Suffering

Emöke Tapolyai

Emöke Tapolyai (M.Mus., Cleveland State) is an MACPC student at ATS.

Death a personal reality

As I sit by my notes from class I wonder, what is suffering? Loss. What is death? For many it is Tom and Jerry killing each other seventy times in sixty seconds and still living. It is a reality that we do not deal with until we have to.

For me, death and suffering were always a part of life. I remember my great-grandmother who died when I was four years old. Many times I have heard how she begged God for a little girl after the five boys, and how she loved me. I remember looking up at her, her dark, long dress, fragile small body, and sometimes I even think I remember her voice. Yet what is left from her is not memory of knowledge, but of feelings. I feel how she felt for me. I do miss that.

Then, as years passed one of my grandmothers died. She is more vivid in my memory. I recall the big family gathering at her funeral, and I remember crying, hurting though not fully comprehending what was happening.

I was nineteen years old when death, fully dressed, appeared at my door. At that time I was in the United States as a political refugee and was not allowed to go back to Hungary, my home country. My grandfather, with whom I had spent all my childhood summers, died. I talked to him on the phone a day or two before his death. I remember arguing with God: “I believe in miracles! I promise I will do better! Keep him, God! Are You there? Just say You’ll do whatever You can!”. Oh how I begged Him, and bargained with Him. I went as far as agreeing to his death as long as I had a chance to say good bye. And when my grandfather died, I thought it was because I could not pray well, because I did not pray hard enough. I should have fasted and knelt those days through. I was guilty. I was not allowed to return to bury him, so death was even harder to believe.

Two years later I pleaded for my grandmother’s life. I was twenty-one and knew how to pray better, or at least I thought so. She was my role model. She was the one who taught me to pray and praise. I remember the times in my childhood when we knelt together by the bedside and, after finishing all my requests, she would smile and say: “Praise Him now! Thank Him now!” Even now, ten years later, tears are flowing down my face. I did not pray well. I did not fast long enough. I was guilty. She was gone to praise Him face to face. I was not allowed to go back and say good-bye to her. She died alone, and we

prayed so far away from her - alone. I started to come to realize that physical presence has such an important part in suffer...

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