Recently, I received word of the death of one of my former colleagues. Another colleague died just weeks ago. Both died after battles with cancer. And the older I get, the more of this kind of news I hear.
I feel a heaviness in my soul that didn’t used to be there.
I have lived an extremely privileged life. I did not grow up in an environment where I had to fear for my life, either in my home or outside of it. War and violence were things you heard about on the news, happening somewhere else to people you’d never met. Our family was not rich by American standards, but neither were we poor; we never worried about not making the mortgage payment or finding ourselves on the street. And I’ve been blessed with a career that most days I don’t feel I deserve.
Death itself was an abstraction. I only remember a handful of funerals from my childhood, and it’s only been in recent years that I’ve been present when someone actually died. It used to be easier to keep up the ignorant illusion that death might never come, to celebrate the promise of eternal life with a glib “Hallelujah!” that didn’t take seriously why the promise was needed in the first place.
I need Easter.
Yes, the resurrection is the vindication of Jesus’ claims. Yes, the resurrection had to precede Pentecost. Yes, the risen Jesus betokens new life in the present and a resurrection body in the future.
But all of that sounds a little different when death is not truly perceived as the enemy, when we don’t mourn it, when we don’t see it for the ugly scar that it is on God’s creation.
I need to know that death will not have the final word tomorrow, so that it still means something to live today. I need to know that darkness isn’t the end of the story, so I can keep pursuing the light. I need to know that pain and suffering and heartache and decay and loss are all only temporary setbacks to be endured, so that I can bear them with grace and hope.
And even joy.
I celebrate resurrection, because I need Easter.