Sunday, March 23, 2008
This morning I awoke to memories of our first daughter's death, almost 12 years ago. They aren't predictable, but they're consistent.... it's always on a morning when sunlight streams in at just a certain angle, just as it did one morning following her death.
I remember the moment vividly. Days were dull and numb. It seemed a bit stupid to do the normal things people do, but you didn't know what else to do, because it equally felt bad not to do anything. So you went through whatever routine the day required, as if to appear normal to others, and just didn't assign meaning, or emotion, or enthusiasm to the actions you took. By night time, you were ready for bed, because it meant an end to the day, but falling asleep was not easy, because it seemed the one time when your mind didn't have to be subject to routine, so as if against my own will, it would journey through the emotions I had successfully avoided during the day.
Eventually exhaustion gave way to sleep, and it was usually a heavy sleep when it came. So heavy, that when the morning sun shone in, for just a brief second or two, it felt like a fresh start. For just that brief moment, I didn't remember. My mind associated previous happy memories with the sun streaming in, and for that precious moment, my spirit was free from the burden that surrounded us. Of course, it was just a second or two, before I did remember. And upon remembering, the darkness associated with loss seemed to bring a dark fog quickly over me that blurred even that bright sunlight. I remember telling Jason, as he lay beside me, about the brief second of freedom, and wondered out loud if we would ever have mornings that were good again, that we didn't remember, ... that felt fresh....
When I remembered this morning, I thought it timely that to realize it was Easter.
Jessica's funeral had presented some challenges. Her funeral fell on Labor day. Maybe it was a problem, her funeral being on a holiday and all, I don't know. But the funeral home was late that morning. We had a long line of guests being held outside closed chapel doors, past when the funeral was to begin. Calls to the funeral home. Waiting. The crowd grows. More calls. Finally the director shows up. He rushed hurriedly in the back door with a briefcase in one hand and Jessica's little casket tucked under his other arm, like he was late for a business meeting. That was another time where I'm sure what actually took seconds seemed like extended moments, but I know the shock of his actions hit everyone in the room instantly as my dad, and I believe Jason's dad, walked briskly back and met him halfway down the aisle to take her body from him. They carried it gently, respectfully, and quietly to the stand in the front. We had requested that the casket be left open, so we could put some personal items in with her body, but we found they had sealed the casket already that morning. So we tucked our letters and items away, and opened the doors. The service was beautiful, friends and family ministered greatly to us.
There is something still stomach turning about that morning to me. Not the funeral, but the fact that the care of her body had been given over to people who really didn't care. Because this is such a custom we're used to here, I never made the connection until this morning.
As I read the account of Jesus' death, and burial, and resurrection, I understood what Mary felt when she couldn't find his body to prepare it. (John 20:15) When she asked the 'gardener', "Sir, if you have carried him away, just tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
There is something about knowing a body may not hold the spirit anymore, but because of what the spirit of the person meant to you, you want to honor that shell, even in death. Maybe it doesn't look appropriate for a woman to carry a dead body back from some place it was mistakingly put, but you don't care. It was yours. It housed the soul of one you loved. Cold, discolored, empty, or not, it is the vessel, or bridge, between the here and now and the eternal.
How I love that voice. It is the voice of the One who proved in that moment He can and will One Day unseal the casket of my daughter. It is the voice of the One who makes light chase away darkness, and not the other way around. The Voice of One who brings fresh mornings, of not remembering. Who promises to bring an end to preparing the bodies of the dead.
It is because of the truth of His resurrection that I give my life to serving the God who has the power to do such a thing. All else that would demand my time, or my attention, or my affection, pales in comparison to such a One.
There is no blind faith here, in fact, for a time Jessica's loss had me convinced that a God who would allow such things to happen wasn't worthy of my time, if he even existed. Thankfully, God doesn't give up when He has been misjudged. In fact, it was while we were yet enemies, that Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
Eli asked me this morning : "If God is God, and He could do anything, why didn't He just forgive us. Why did He have to let this happen to Jesus? "
I told him that God had to be just, and truthful about the evil things we, as His creation, have done. He couldn't just pretend we hadn't done it. Righteousness doesn't lie, and pretending doesn't make a thing go away or not real. Even Eli understood that. The only thing that has the power to outweigh the things we have done was the absolute perfection and unadulterated innocence of His obedient Son. To sacrifice, on our behalf, such an undeserving One does surely cover even the multitude of tens of millions of sins we've committed. And to raise Him, and give us the promise of His righteousness, proves His grace on top of His justice and righteousness.
Easter morning brings much reason to celebrate among those who have heard, and believed, and decided to follow Jesus Christ.
Now, when the sun shines in on mornings like these, I remember that there are good mornings. And this, was one of the best in History.