I am writing this on Holy Saturday – the day between the death of Good Friday and the resurrection of Easter. In church terms, I think of this as the day that death sinks in, the day of hopelessness and pain. But as I look out the window at a barge moving down the sparkling river, at families walking in the park next door, at trees drinking in the sunshine, it looks as if resurrection is already happening. And I remember that in real life death and resurrection both happen every day.
But still, the in-between time feels important. The leaves that come down in autumn need the process of winter in order to become nourishment for spring growth. Food needs to be digested before it can nourish us. And we need time to measure a loss before we can start to build a new life.
When a tree comes down in our yard, we must first deal with the damage, and the mess: clear the tangle of branches, chop and split the trunk – or have it carted away. It is only as we wrestle with debris of its death that the new landscape presents itself – the hole where the sky comes in, the bald patch in our garden. And it is only as we live with that new landscape that we can decide what form of new life we want to emerge. Will we choose a young tree to replace the old? Will we leave the openness and welcome the greater light? Will we use the logs to build a playhouse for our children? The new life, the resurrection, does not come right away.
And when the loss is of someone we love, we need the in-between time as well. We need to know what we have lost. A lover? A cheerleader? A guide? We need to feel the pain and the absence in order for new life to emerge. The pain is still there, but we learn to pay the bills ourself. We continue to grieve, and we hire someone to repair the toilet. We miss them desperately, but we find the space inside that turns out to contain our mother’s wisdom or our father’s encouragement. The new life, the resurrection, does not come right away. It needs to take root in the loss, in the death, before it can grow.
Dorothy Muller is a Chaplain at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and a Parish Associate at Bedford Presbyterian Church.