Grief is a powerful and heavy force. It can weigh us down with despair and fear, and make so many things seem beyond repair.
While our city, our state and the nation mourn the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, it is tempting to give in to that grief. Maybe part of why Rep. Cummings’ passing hurts so much for so many is that, after long generations of pain, much of his 7th District and the rest of his beloved city is struggling to hope. It is bigger than the man and deeper than the experience of his time in office. He embodied that struggle and tried to be a voice of righteousness to overcome it.
Rep. Cummings knew that real leadership is about service. He was often described as “powerful,” but he knew that true power comes in service that empowers others and strengthens communities. Whether he was advocating for children separated from families at the border, people living in poverty and kept there by policy, seniors needing resources for healthy and safe aging, individuals and families impacted by substance use disorder, or young people in underserved schools, the congressman knew that he had been empowered entirely on behalf of those he represented.
An empowered community is not about a look. It’s a feeling, a kinship, a love for neighbor that, like the congressman, builds relationships, recognizes strengths, encourages growth, and finds healing in the relentless conviction that a better tomorrow is coming if we just keep facing the day.
It is right that we grieve. We can honor memory with mourning, and then turn that pain into passion again, to convert it into a force for love and justice that advocates for our neighbors and takes action for their needs. It is within us to give life to hope, and to work beyond it toward that greater good. I am grateful for knowing Rep. Cummings and sharing with him the sense of community that comes from growing up near each other. I and all of us at Catholic Charities send our deepest condolences to his wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, their three children, and all who love him. We remain humbled to honor the purpose that drove his service and defines his memory for our community.