Susan Baller-Shepard: Fresh Grief: Thoughts of Easter


Some day you will stand before the casket, and the last sentence you had with that person is what you'll remember. You'll recall the last smile, the last joke, the last knowing glance, when you caught her eye, and you knew she knew exactly what you were feeling, without saying a word.

This will happen.

The one you love will die.

Maybe you'll be alive for her death, still here, and wishing you weren't, because it will hurt so deeply. Grief's a tractor furrowing your chest. What was once your heart is so chiseled out you believe you'll never feel again or think again, because God knows you can't think when you're in ripe grief, let alone drive, or concentrate on anything for very long. Grief is green as corn leaves, rough and furled in the morning.

You ask, "Why?" a thousand times over, thousands, and thousands of times. "Why?" beats steady as a heart. "Why? Why? Why?"

All of us, we've known death is a given, right? For every single one of us.

Each one we love will die. If a first breath, is #1, what number will his last breath be? When will it be? This we don't know. Our ignorance leaves us exposed. We don't know. We won't know.

The child at our breakfast table, our beloved, we want his numbers to well exceed ours. Our parents, if they were good and kind, we want them to outlive their role. We want time with them so we can grow up, rebel, run away, and return in their lifetimes and ours.

Our friends? Life's history keepers, who recall the details of our first kiss and with whom and why, know what has the power to break us, know the annoyances that send us to the moon? When she or he is gone? That history -- where does it go? Who bears that along? Where is all of that stored?

We'll find a place for it. We'll save those memories, but when it's raw and ripe, grief resounds, "All is forever and always lost." Those times together, the late night laughter, the sure support, the inside jokes of years together? These feel irretrievable, as if they've fallen into a gaping maw, a well that's endless, deep and dark. How to retrieve any of this? How to recall words that would elicit laughter, that would bring tears because they were so very funny they made you hurt?

You will hurt, to your very marrow, to the formation of yourself. You will hurt to the very cells that form, billions of new cells per day, all during your life, to keep your heart pumping, your brain turning over thoughts, all these bodily miracles will go on, while all else seems forever and always lost.

If Easter means anything, it has to speak to this fresh grief.

It has to speak something new in the dark. Into despair that tastes like metal, and is that monochrome, in this ravaged ransacked landscape, something or someone must emerge.

Mistaken first as a gardener, mistaken for one who tends green growth and tender tendrils, Christ walks out of a tomb. This is not to say death is not real, it is. Death is real as birth. Death is real as dirt. Death is real as stone: heavy, immovable.

To this heaviness, Easter speaks.

The One who emerges says death is part of something bigger, that the one who is gone is not gone for good, that the saints in light are there, not far from here.

The One who knows us best will come when we need this One most and whisper, "All is not lost."

I am not lost. You are not lost. All is not lost.

This One will appear first to the women, then will serve food, because we haven't eaten in our grief, we've had no appetite for anything. This One will restore our hunger for something more. "Follow," then, we're encouraged, even if we're on our last leg.

There's nothing and no one to fear. Light prevails, not darkness. Death's relentless furrowing will subside, it will not always overwhelm. We will catch our breath again, one day. We will be surprised to hear ourselves laugh. The pain will not always define us. It will not be the only thing. We on earth can feel heaven is not far. In fact, one day, besides grief in our marrow, we'll feel heaven there too, inside, and it and all, will be enough for now. It will be enough, for now.

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