For our weekly incubator meeting, we enjoyed the company of our participants in addressing our personal beliefs on finding hope through suffering. We each shared our fundamental beliefs and what gives us hope. Our guest speaker, Unitarian minister Cindy Frado, joined us to discuss our topic, “The Spirituality of Suffering”. Cindy has an impressive study and travel history: she attended Boston College, pursued graduate studies in Germany, interned at the Vatican, studied at Geneva, and completed programs at Harvard. Her studies centered around theology, concentrated on the Christian faith. She offers a balanced, studied, and worldly point of view. Expressing her personal beliefs, Frado stressed that every person is born on their own journey, in which “we are all a little bit broken”. Rather than begging “Why me?”, she finds hope in the understanding that, “We have people to walk by our side…and there is always something to lift us up”.
Cindy shared her emotional story of deep, personal suffering. She was the first female minister at her parish in Menden, MA. In this position, she was required to ride in a pulpit for an annual parade. The float had a steeple that stood directly behind Cindy as she rode; while the float was in motion, the steeple toppled and hit her on the head. She arrived at the hospital, and was sent home after it was determined that her skull itself was unscathed.
Cindy suffered a traumatic brain injury that day: she could not speak fluently, lost a range of memories (including much of her children growing up), and grew increasingly depressed. She visited a neurologist who gave her little hope or comfort; he instead prescribed her heavy anti-depressants. In desperation to end her suffering, she visited a psychologist’s office. After an introductory conversation, the psychologist said, “Do you believe in angels? Because your guardian angel sent you to me. I am one of the only two psychologists in Massachusetts certified to work with people with brain injuries”. This meeting was the beginning of her new lease on life, spurring her belief that “when you are in the darkest, deepest place, God sends someone to lift you up”; through hope and human compassion, Frado was lifted from her darkest, deepest place. Through all of this, she refuses to let her suffering define her, asserting that “whatever your suffering is, it does not have to consume you”.
Frado left us with many encouraging thoughts, but a quote she remembered from her mother truly resonated: “It is not what happens to you that matters, its how you respond to it”. These words are empowering and fraught with optimism. In our concluding discussion, participants expressed admiration of Cindy, and reflected on their personal beliefs as they connected to her personal experiences. The group seemed empowered by her story and hopeful for their own futures, commending her courage and ability to persevere. As Cindy asserts, “No suffering is the same, for anyone; we all have suffering”; we are all connected and can all relate to the fact that we have gone through something that made us feel unloved, hopeless, or weak. Still, we can all find something to lift us up.
By: Laura Flynn