Tag Archives: easter

Seasons: The Death of Easter

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Middle of nowhere, the Snowy Mountains, Australia, 1980s: The incense wallows out of the rocking censer, curling heavenwards with our Hail Marys and sneezes. My priest loves Easter, eyes practically closed in adoration and prayer, his saggy cheeks rocking in time with his slow cloudy shuffle around the altar.

“Reckon he’ll hit the corner again?” my brother asks, hopeful and bright eyed amid the pious and bored faces. “SHHHhh” I hiss, trying to convince God that I do believe, that He can do many glorious things, and I’m not even asking for wine or someone back from the dead, I just want to go to a boarding school.  Father Caston presses ashes to my forehead in the sign of the cross, and within the hour mass is done and we’re home again. My brother’s ashes didn’t last ten seconds after application, my sister tasting hers and shoving me when I raised my judging teenage eyebrows. My ashes stay on until I shower the next day, hoping that my outward devotion will be extra credit to my prayers, to my utter, desperate hope that my will is His will. It’s not.

Another Easter, this one wrapped in an early, hungry autumn. I walk in fog to and from church, the tip of my nose thawing in time to drip during communion. All the talk of new life and light seems callous when we’re descending into the loss of heat, a whiny wet winter, wearing coughs as scarves and give up walking around puddles.  Easter is more about autumn, about death, the aching cold of the grave, a time of tears and fog it seems; the promise of an early spring, an eventual scorching summer, a glorious rebirth and resurrection are too far distant to be anything but useless, more a slap on a sunburnt shoulder than a soothing relief.

I look to God for answers, for relief, and find…. Nothing. Nothing for years, until two guys named Elder knocked on my door one freezing winter night, dripping rain onto my carpet and flooding God’s light into my life. It’s been nearly 20 years since that storm, with countless smashings, leakings, gluts and refillings of my meagre store of testimony oil. I’ve burned fiercest at my most desolate moments, sputtered through average weeks with not a catastrophe in sight, still always reaching out for answers, relief, and comfort from a God I have mostly learnt loves me for me, in a very personal way.

But every Easter I struggle.  The gorgeous earth I live on is going dormant, the beauty fading, the weeds and prickles cantankerous under foot, and the light is going to fade. The flowers have died and despite over three decades of experience showing the daffodils and heat will return, (“Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again” says the faithful, Catholic, covenant-heavy refrain) but what if this time, not? Continue reading Seasons: The Death of Easter

Lessons from Easter Mourning

Sleepy Hollow CemeteryIt’s hard to mourn on Easter Sunday.

I sat last Sunday listening to General Conference hearing the story of the Greatest Consolation Ever, listening to alleluias, smelling lilies…with red eyes and a broken heart.

The news of my dear friend (I’ll call him “Job”) and his out-of-nowhere tumor/sudden surgery/aggressive cancer/grim prognosis was fresh and raw.

This Easter I was incapable of engaging with the lofty notion of victory over the grave, with death that has “no sting.”

And, as if I weren’t feeling abysmal enough, I almost felt guilty for not being able to engage and rejoice.

Aren’t I a believer?
Don’t I affirm Life with a Capital L?
What happened to the faith I’ve been robustly building for decades now?

I say I almost felt guilty. And then, when I went a few minutes without weeping or being weighed down in loss, I almost felt guilty for not being sad enough. Didn’t I owe Job that much?

This is not the first time I’ve confronted death, grief and loss. I almost feel guilty about having to go through all this sorrow again. One would think my past encounters could have, what?…built up a callous? Enriched me so deeply that I would always and only be infused with faith, hope and celestial perspectives?

I know those tropes, and I see their ruses.

Would we expect someone who has just had a limb savagely ripped off not to scream or cry or react?

Any loss like this – the death of a friend or a failed relationship or a betrayal of some kind – is an emotional injury with its own messy versions of ripping, shredding and bleeding. It has its own ways of sending psychological counterparts of white blood cells to the injury to help, protect and heal it.

It also has its own time frame.

I’m now edging past the emotionally oozing stage, but that could change with any new downturn. This is, I have learned, how grief goes. Each occasion offers us our own convoluted Way of Grief.

Besides this most wrenching news about Job, within the last month I have been inundated with dark news about other friends’ calamities/fragile marriages/lost pregnancies/health crises. Yesterday I witnessed a dog get run over by a car. It’s too much.

We have covenanted to “mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those who stand in need of comfort.” From my unfortunately fresh perspective, I offer some practical bits that might help develop those skills.

1. Allow grieving people (including yourself) their messy progress. Offer them your love without judging them or hurrying them. This is a real boon in times of sorrow.

2. Sometimes words that you think might provide consolation – like the promise of eternal life – sound too lofty to grasp right then and only emphasize to the mourner the immediate loss of the intimacy, vivacity and presence of the dying loved one. On the other hand, to some grieving people, these can be very soothing words. (so see #1)

3. Small gestures of consolation can mean a lot. Sometimes these mean more than words.

4. Don’t expect the person facing death (or an uncomfortable future) to console you. They have enough to deal with already. Be as loving, supportive and present (even if not physically) to them as you are able and as they allow. Accept (and give) the grace and help of your fellow mourners – but don’t ask it of the mourned.

Because I have traveled this desperate route before, I’m convinced I will not always be on the verge of tears. I will not always carry this current burden. I will not always identify closely with these lyrics:

“Swift to its close, ebbs out life’s little day. Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.”

I believe I will again want to sing:

“Lives again, our glorious King! Where, oh death, is now thy sting?”

Sympathy, Faith and a Tricycle

My tricycle“The last time I saw you,” she sighed, staring at an afternoon decades ago, “you were wearing a little shirt with a pocket on the chest, and a nappy, and I took you straight off ya Mum and walked down the back of the yard. We had a look at the animals, and you put ya head down on my shoulder. It was a few weeks until Christmas, and..” she paused, puffing out her cheeks before starting again, “.. ya Mum said she’d bring you back then to get your presents.” She pushed at the tablecloth, straightening wrinkles and bumps into temporary submission. She heaved in a breath, looked up to meet my gaze, blinking against the tears falling into the creases of her face. “I didn’t see you again. I didn’t even know if you was dead. Nothing.”

“Oh I’ve missed you,” she choked out. “I never forgot you. Never stopped loving you. Not ever. Not a single day without wondering where you were and if you were okay.”

This was my grandmother; a woman whom I didn’t even know existed until two months earlier. But I could see my face reflected in hers, and finally had a physical, genetic explanation of where my red hair and curves came from. It was our first weekend together (that I could remember), and we stared hungrily at each other’s face, asked questions and tried to fill in the enormous, bewildering gap of over two decades of life (and deaths and marriages, babies, successes and heartbreak) we had lived without knowledge of the other’s experiences.

Over and over again my Nan would say the same phrases, and still does whenever we talk. “I never forgot ya. Never stopped loving ya. Not ever. Not a single day without wondering where you were and if you was okay. It broke my heart.”  I don’t doubt it hurt her. My biological Dad and his siblings have told me of her grief, of their eventual insistence that she not speak of me in their hearing because of the pain it caused all of them. I couldn’t imagine what it meant, or felt like, to lose a granddaughter – the first grandbaby born to the family – in such a sudden, inexplicable and deliberate way. Continue reading Sympathy, Faith and a Tricycle