I am currently captivated by The Pacific, an HBO mini-series airing on Sunday nights. Even on Easter Sunday I am watching as the men of the 1st Marine Division are moving through the jungle on New Britain. The jungle is everyone’s enemy. I cannot remember enough about the history of America’s time in that part of the world and I cannot account for the accuracy of the portrayal, but I am not likely to miss an episode. The bodies of the dead look real and the faces of the survivors betray their simple desire to live another day. But actors and sets aside, I was most struck by the words of one of the actual survivors from the 1st Marine Division:

“Sometimes with life, you just pray and hold on. That’s what we did on Guadalcanal.”

It’s true, isn’t it? There are times in our lives when we can do nothing more. Our supplies are exhausted; we are physically and emotionally drained. The world seems stacked against us and there is no place to hide. There seems to be nothing left except our simple faith and persistence.

I have a friend who was literally drowning in sorrow as he watched his son struggle against himself – unable to shake an addiction to opiates – the kid stole and fought and turned reason upside down. My friend could do nothing more than observe; keeping eyes on what remained of his much-loved son who could not get free of the junk. He watched his boy, and I watched him – not just me – but his friends. We watched and waged war with him.

Another friend told him she would pray.

“Has it come to that?” he asked. “Is that all there is left? Prayer?”

In every criminal case I work on there are those days when parents and brothers and sisters and friends and spouses have those same shell-shocked faces I am watching on HBO. They are in it up to their necks and all they can do is pray and hold on. And I tell them it is OK.

Pray and hold on.

If you’re in this situation, and you are wondering if your world will ever return to normal – pray and hold on. Hold on, and hold some more.

Get some help for you and those around you. The right to counsel won’t help you – so get some help. Check with your church, call the local social services agency, grab a phonebook and find an Al-Anon meeting. Ask your Rabi, your Priest, your Pastor, your best friend and anyone else who you can trust to get you through this.

That’s right – you. In every criminal case there are family and friends dying a million times as the case unfolds. Sappy? Maybe. But I have watched these real life dramas play out in big and little cases this year and each of the past 28 years I have practiced.

If you are in one of these, you already know about pain and guilt and the "why didn’t I see this coming…." 

Pray and hold on. And get yourself some help.