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?