Meditations on a Sad Easter
April 8th, 2016
“Don’t let anyone force you into Easter,” wrote my friend the Rev. Dan Furman.
The occasion was the sudden tragic and senseless death just before Easter of a woman with whom I had worked every day for the thirteen years I’ve been at UCOM. Our entire staff and hundreds of clients she had befriended through her eighteen years of service at the agency were traumatized by her sudden and senseless death.
Dan’s statement, received in an email to me, started me thinking about Easter (life, death and resurrection) in a slightly different light. Two take-aways for me are these.
Easter is not a date on the calendar.
This is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in Christian tradition and, in many places, the blooming of spring (rebirth) from winter’s chill. My memories of childhood Easters are of new clothes (frilly dresses and bonnets for my little sister and little 3-piece suits for me), egg hunts (with real boiled eggs decorated the night before), long ebullient church services and huge family Easter dinners (always with ham as a centerpiece).
For many years in my work with Christian churches I tried to emulate the traditions and the feelings of those childhood Easters. Even as my personal concept moved from fundamental reanimation to spiritual resurrection, the center of the celebration was the 2,000 year-old story of angels and empty tomb. The pastor of the church I visited on Easter insisted on a hearty “Hallelujah! Amen!” The most I could muster was a whispered “Hallelujah, anyhow.”
Grief is always appropriate when it is authentic. There is no shame in hurting just because the calendar says “Easter”. Yes, funerals can be joyous “home-going” celebrations, but the ragged edges that are left on our souls when a loved one is torn away are just as real regardless of the occasion.
Don’t let anyone force you into Easter. When the time comes, the grief will dull and other emotions will predominate. The key is waiting in the darkness in the peace of pain until the full brightness of the morning comes. You will not always hurt this much; but embrace the sadness and let it have its way until it is gone.
The resurrection has already taken place.
Eventually the disciples accepted that their leader and teacher had not been destroyed by death. Somehow he got ahead of them, and they followed the spirit of truth who lived again among them.
When I looked around at the hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of my friend, I saw in every face that she was alive again—alive in her children, her grieving colleagues and in hundreds of the neighbors she had served. I knew in that moment that she would never die because she lived on in all of us.
Only at that point, in the Saturday after Easter, did resurrection have its effect on me. Old words heard in my childhood chimed quietly: “Those who live and believe in me shall never die.”
Happy belated Easter.