So here we are again, at another October 3rd. Well, as I write, it's October 2nd but I was lying in bed thinking about the day ahead and knew I couldn't fall asleep until I got up and wrote. And I'm sure by the time I finish, it will be October 3rd.
For the first time, I am not in New Hampshire on the anniversary of my brother's death. It's strange not to be there. I wonder if the sun will shine on Fairwood and if Uncle Tim has stabbed his sword into the earth at the traditional spot.
It's inevitable that an anniversary should make you remember. But as three years have gone by, it's not simply a day of recalling the past; it makes me reflect on life in general - what is important. Andrew's death has taught me to take nothing and no one for granted. It helps me to keep short accounts with people and to see the preciousness of each human life. I still struggle daily with the negative side - fear - that comes with that good principle. I had never experienced that level of loss before and did not know the depth of sadness that life could hold. I don't like being sad; I never want to be that sad again. But I know it will happen. I can't stand the thought. It makes life hard to live this way but there is no joy or love in life without risk. I'm glad I knew Andrew and I would gladly live the part of my life that included him over again, even knowing that I could lose him again. So I must continue to live and love those around me now. Even though I know there is no safety net and no guarantees.
Now I'm going to say something that might sound like I'm making a blasphemous analogy but I don't mean it that way so don't be offended - you'll see where I'm going. I was thinking recently about Jesus' disciples and how they must have felt as they watched him die. They must have thought that this was the end of the world. I'm sure they were confused and heartbroken and had little if no concept of the larger picture and greater meaning - the 'deeper magic' as C.S. Lewis would say- that was unfolding before them. They were blinded and paralyzed by grief and shock. This is the Son of God! This is not supposed to happen! How could The Father LET this happen? Being executed like a criminal?! Jesus never hurt a fly! What is going to happen to us now? The future is unthinkable - a blank. Our lives are meaningless. Surely SOMETHING is going to happen - some miracle...angels...a voice from heaven...some heavenly rescue mission...maybe...please?! But nothing happened. And Jesus died.
WHAT?! He DIED?! That's it. End of story. Game over. That's what they thought.
And why did Jesus lie in the tomb for three days? ( Other than to fulfill prophecy and all that kind of thing...) Why wasn't He resurrected the very next morning? Or six hours later? Blood and water came from his side - proof of death. Okay. He could have accomplished everything He did during those three days in a shorter time, couldn't He? Why did the disciples have to endure that period of darkness and bewilderment? I have no idea. That's just the way it happened. I don't feel like going down the road of "character building." Maybe it's true - but it sounds too sappy. Whatever.
But one part of the story - besides the wonderful, amazing part about the resurrection- helps me. It's that blindness to the bigger picture. We're still in those three days between the death and the resurrection - when little or nothing makes sense. Somehow, it encourages me to KNOW that I'm blind. It's okay that I can't see. It's okay that we've been blindsided by grief. That's normal. But grief, as terrible as it is to encounter and endure and as much as I naturally dread it, grief never has the last word. My faith tells me that there is something beyond my blindness; I am suffering in the presence of great hope. It's a strange, dual reality - suffering and faith. There are so many clues around that point to the fact, I believe, that there's something much larger going on. It's called 'eternity' and I've already started to live it, even if I don't understand all that's involved - because the eternal life that Jesus offers starts before death. Eternal life is now.
Did I say this already? Somewhere else? The thing about being blind to the bigger picture? In some past post? This is sounding like de-ja-vu to me... Maybe I'm reminding myself of John Eldridge in "Epic." I'm trying to remember...Things are not what they seem. There is a great battle going on. And you have a role to play. It's a good book- if you haven't read it already, go out and buy you a copy - it's not big and it's not expensive.
Another thing that encouraged me recently: I was listening to someone talk about the story of Lazarus' death and how Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you were here, my brother would not have died." As I listened to that, I could relate to Martha. I could have said those very words three years ago. Almost accusing Him of not caring. But I can't do that now. There has been, and continues to be, healing in the last three years. I still feel the pain of what Martha said, but as I do, I remember at the same time what came next: Jesus said, "Your brother will rise again..." Stop. That's enough for me- just that. Never mind that Jesus didn't raise my brother from his coffin in a New Hampshire hillside on October 9th or 10th or 11th...My brother will rise again.
Now I think I should go to bed.