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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.

Comments

#1 Melissa Anderson said:

Thanks for the helpful sharing of how you have processed this experience, Bruce. Sometimes the best pastoral care comes from having been a participant in the tragedy, rather than the well-trained outside observer (unfortunately).

#2 Mare Martell said:

Peace find you in your strife. Comfort seek you in this breathing life.

#3 Kathy Bogart said:

Oh, Bruce, Melissa is right. The best counselors are those who share their own experiences with others. Thank you for sharing. My heart breaks for you and those who knew Diana; her family, friends, co-workers, etc. There are no words to console such sudden and awful loss. Just please know that all of you are in my thoughts and prayers. May you find peace somehow, someday. I love you,

#4 Janice said:

Thanks for this Bruce -Because of Jesus - we have hope! And yes - Diana lives on in spirit and in our hearts. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!!! PS... At least you went to church on Easter!!! I coudnt.... And love lives on.

#5 Bruce Roller said:

Sadly true, Melissa. The support of our church friends has been so important as we heal.

#6 Bruce Roller said:

Great advice, Mare, and so poetic.

#7 Bruce Roller said:

I went to church mainly to support Phil who had to direct joyful celebratory music through his tears. Being in the worshipping congregation, though, was a real solace to me. We all cope however we can.

#8 Bruce Roller said:

Thank you for blessing, Kathy. Our friendship warms me in the cold night of sorrow, and I have faith that with the morning comes joy.

#9 Tammy Davison said:

Thank you for sharing this Bruce. It expresses how all of us felt upon learning of Dianna's death. I am blessed to have had Dianna in my life through our CLC personal care pantry. She was loved by many and will always live on in our hearts.

#10 Bruce Roller said:

Tammy, Love never fails.

#11 Carol Tanis said:

Bruce, yours are powerful words evoked by this sadly profound experience. I think grieving is a long process, which makes it harder and easier. You wonder if it will EVER get better, but all you have to do is live one day at a time, or one moment at a time. The good news is that you are part of a grieving community.

#12 Bruce Roller said:

I love your thoughts, Carol, and hold them close for comfort.

#13 Amanda said:

Thank you Bruce for this honest and heartfelt message about the life; death and resurrection of our dear friend Diana just as Jesus did on that Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I enjoyed this message and got a lot from your words. Thank you.

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