Easter comes

A while ago I was talking with a friend who had recently returned from a trip back east for her mother’s funeral. Not long before she had been with her mother and they celebrated her mother’s 100th birthday. My friend is my age or perhaps a bit older. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how old your mother was, the death of your mother is a significant life event. During the conversation, she told me of being seized by an urge to give her mother a call. Before her mother’s death, she had made it a practice to pick up the phone and talk with her on a regular basis. It seemed so natural to do so since the distance between Washington, where the daughter lives and Michigan, where the mother lived was so great that she got used to the phone as a tool of relationship. Whenever she missed her mother or simply was thinking of her, she would pick up the phone after carefully checking to remember what time it was in Michigan. So, after her mother died, she would pick up the phone and nearly dial it before remembering that it would not longer produce her mother’s voice at the other end.

I could feel her grief as we talked but I also noted that a couple of times she had experiences that made it seem like her mother was still alive. She had opened a cookbook to find a card with a recipe that had been hand-written by her mother decades before and the sight of the handwriting made her so happy she went to work and cooked the recipe on the card that was familiar and delicious and made her so happy to have the recipe.

I reported that it has been a dozen years since my mother died and I am still finding treasures that bring her presence to my spirit. I didn’t go into detail about how it has taken me all of these years to get around to the task of sorting some of the papers my mother left behind and that process is filled with tiny moments of discovery and revelation. I did tell her that the story of the recipe seemed to me like a resurrection moment - a time when her mother’s life broke through the loss and grief to be real and present. I also suggested that she might want to write a journal or keep notes about the many resurrection moments that will continue to be a part of her life.

She was really taken with the label, “resurrection moment.” Each time I have seen her since that conversation, she has reported a couple more moments when her mother’s life and presence have broken through her everyday life and filled her with gratitude.

The gospels report of Jesus’ resurrection almost as if it was a sudden event, occurring on the third day after his crucifixion. John’s gospel gives us the sense of an early morning encounter with the women who had been keeping vigil for first light in order for it to be time to go and prepare the body. However, if you read the Christian Scriptures as a unit, with the Gospels and Epistles, you find many stories of Jesus’ disciples encountering his living presence after he died. I suspect that there is much of those disciples experiences that has escaped the words of the texts. It seems to me far more likely than their experience of resurrection being a single moment on a single day that they sensed his presence often over a long time. After all, there was significant time between their lived experiences and the writing of the Gospel texts. Storytellers often compress time in the expression of their craft.

Many times, over years of serving congregations I have commented that there is a reason why Lent is a 40-day season and Easter is a 50-day season. While we set aside 40 days each year to reflect on death, loss and grief, we set aside even more days to struggle with the meaning of resurrection. Resurrection is not the same as resuscitation. It is not the same as a dead body resuming breathing and eating and other life functions. If we are looking for resuscitation in the midst of our grief, we will be disappointed. Evidence that resuscitation is an uncommon thing that happens after death has occurred can make some say that scientific evidence disproves resurrection. Without engaging in argument, I note, however, that even after millennia of human grief and millions upon millions of deaths and losses, we are still here. Death is not the end of the meaning, the worth, or the power of human life. Even though we will all one day die from this life, the gift of life has the final triumph.

There will come a time, years from now, when there will be no one left who remembers my name or who can tell firsthand stories of having known me. Whatever writings or other items that continue to exist after I die will not last forever. They will be lost. I will be forgotten by those who are living. That does not, however, change the simple fact that I have lived. I have experienced art and culture and music in my own unique way. I have served others in the ways I was able. I have spoken of and witnessed to the presence of the holy in this life. And I have loved and been loved. It may sound like a cliche, but the biblical truth remains: love never dies.

I never met the mother of my friend. I cannot picture her in my mind. I do not know what food his detailed on the recipe card. But I know the service of the daughter who was a teacher and school administrator. I know her passion for justice and her commitment to helping others to become involved in working for fairness in life and society. I have seen the light in her daughter’s eyes when she speaks of her mother. I have glimpsed just a bit of resurrection in the legacy of her love that remains and is expressed.

Today is the beginning of Easter. A day when we celebrate the triumph of life even though we don’t fully understand it. Today is enough to remind us once again that love never dies. Like my friend, I am eager to discover new resurrection moments that break into my life.

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