My father died one Easter. The days surrounding it were among the most formative of my life.
Through Holy Week I was moving back and forth between my parish and its worship and, 25 miles away, my parents’ home and my father’s bedside. And all the time I was making connections.
I knelt in the church on Maundy Thursday night with people keeping a silent watch identifying with Jesus on the night of his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and then I went to my father and kept a silent vigil at his bedside.
Next day, Good Friday, in church I heard the story of Christ’s passion, his suffering and his struggle for words as he hung on the cross. And then back to my father, his own death very near, struggling to speak words he wanted me to hear.
On the Saturday, Easter Eve, there is always a kind of void, Jesus dead and buried, so to speak, but still not quite Easter. And with my father the experience of waiting, patiently, not knowing when death would come for him, the kind of waiting that always feels much longer than it is.
For my father Easter came a little late, not on Easter Day, but on Easter Tuesday. I don’t doubt his death, which was strangely welcome release to us and to him, was the entry into new life, an experience of resurrection, a little Easter itself.
Part of why Christians make such a lot of these special days is because we make connections. Reflecting on the experience of Jesus we learn how to live creatively through the testing experiences of our own lives, including sometimes the death of someone we love or even the approach of our own.
For most of us these crises do not come in Holy Week and at Easter, but identifying each year with Jesus in his suffering, death and rising again helps us whenever it is we are put to the test. So with Christians the world over, I say this weekend, “Jesus, we praise you for your death and resurrection.”