Friday, April 14, 2017


Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

It seems like every year during Holy Week I feel a stronger tie to my mom. This year the day of her death falls the day after we remember that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed. (I can't decide if it's a good reminder, or a cruel joke. It may change minute to minute.)

There's also something about being with someone as they near death that makes the story of Jesus' death so much more real. Placing flowers at the foot of the cross during the Good Friday service feels too much like putting flowers on my mother's grave. The pain and anguish Jesus felt as he died his violent death reminds me too much of the pain my mother felt as she waited for hers.

This year, as we read the story of the burial of Jesus, I could feel Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapping Jesus cold, lifeless body in burial spices and strips of linen. The body of Jesus must have felt like my mother's - the skin losing heat as time passed, becoming more rigid. They lovingly, carefully, enrobed Jesus corpse with the linen strips. I was thankful the men from the funeral home had covered her body (likely her body in a bodybag) with a thick velvet blanket. And then, it was finished - Jesus' body was sealed in the tomb, and my mother was cremated, buried weeks later. A part of me wishes I could have done what Joseph and Nicodemus did - care for the body of their loved one after death, as they did in life. But I don't know if I would ever be able to get rid of the feeling of her cold, cold skin if I had.

It's more real when you've been there - been present at that moment of death. The story of Jesus isn't just an abstract - it becomes yours. My friend who lost her daughter felt the same. Experiencing death, in person, in your family - it changes the story of Holy Week.

I had to leave the Good Friday service quickly. All the lights went out, and every time I closed my eyes I saw her, dead, in lying in bed. Mary, his disciples, Mary Magdelene - they must have felt the same. They must have remembered his lifeless body for days, or longer.

Because it's been four years, but the image is still as fresh as if it was yesterday.

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