In the midst of my wondering about life and death and Joy–I came to the conclusion that the Easter season is about death…and the overcoming of it. But it is still about death.
Maybe that’s why we people get caught up in Easter basket shopping and gift giving and parties and eating and hunting games and resurrection cakes, because who wants to celebrate death?
I know we are celebrating the overcoming of it, but that is something we wholly base on faith. And, when it has hit too close, it can become something we wrestle with. And, who wants to celebrate wrestling with their own faith on Easter?
Easter reminds us that there is that death. The Holy Spirit gently tries to teach us that it is overcome through Jesus Christ. If we are listening, Easter becomes a holy day, to try and understand what this means in our own lives.
C.S. Lewis once said:
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.
So, for some, if we would think about it deeply enough, Easter is a time to wonder and ponder how much we trust the truth of the Resurrection. And for others, we have been given the chance to experience the matter of life and death, and been hung over that precipice of grief and sadness beyond comprehension–and what have we discovered?
This Easter, I have contemplated why our family does not say “Joy died” very often in our conversations. I found out, quite accidentally, why–this afternoon after lunch–when I was saying to my husband how I shared a comment in Relief Society about “when Joy died.” my three year old son immediately spoke in a very loud voice:
Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom!! Joy didn’t die. She’s alive!
I knew exactly what he meant. And so did he. He was reminding me–echoing the words of President Ezra Taft Benson:
Yes, there is the ever expectancy of death, but in reality there is no death—no permanent parting. The resurrection is a reality.
The spirit world is not far away. Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us. One great spiritual leader asked, “But where is the spirit world?” and then answered his own question. “It is here.”
Yes, Joy is here–and I am sure my son sees her and knows her in a way I cannot comprehend, because my grief is still too great to rend that veil–and maybe it’s because I have not yet become as a little child, as the Savior commanded.
To understand the resurrection fully, I think we have to get there–to be as children. So then Easter becomes a celebration of being as a pure, submissive, loving, faithful child in the arms of her Father.
President Hinckley also said:
…death is not final. Though it seems so when its dark shroud overshadows mortal life, to those who accept the Christ and His eternal mission there is light and comfort, there is assurance, there is certainty.
So, for me Easter becomes a question in my mind:
Am I certain? Am I sure that I will see her again? Am I certain that all things will be restored to me?
And, then there is weeping–because of that comforting wave of absolute certainty that flows over and through and in me.
Why are there so many tears?
Why do I cry almost harder when the balm of the Savior’s resurrection and the overpowering sense of His Living Presence surround me?
The tears of relief that come are the most precious to me because they are tears of faith and hope. They are the cleansing tears of being washed clean through the blood of the Lamb.
Yes, this pattern can be repeated in our tears, when we repent and come closer to Christ, and through His blood and the Spirit we are cleansed, too.
And with that cleansing and that certainty, many things that are supposedly real are washed away and fade like sidewalk chalk drawings on a rainy day, and many things that are not “real” becoming adamant stone–impervious to any vacillating thought or foolish fear with which the adversary tempts to pierce my heart.
But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart…
So Easter becomes for me a miracle of healing. About the Living Christ healing my blind eyes so that I may see rightly. So I might become whole again.
Touch mine eyes, and bid them see
That my gaze might pierce the veil
And behold the wond’rous scene
That in dreams I’ve long beheld.
Oh, touch my heart and bid it know–
That every sorrow here
Is but a moment’s tear
And thou wilt make me whole again…
Easter, then for me, is a time for my questioning and faithless self to die and to be born again, through the Atonement. To see clearly and pierce the veil. To understand that in reality there is no death.
Elder Richard G. Scott said this just a week ago (quoting President Joseph F. Smith):
“We are not separate from them. … We are closely related to our kindred… who have preceded us into the spirit world. We are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break. … If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, … how much more certain it is … to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond … can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. … We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; … their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.”
Relationships can be strengthened through the veil with people we know and love. That is done by our determined effort to continually do what is right. We can strengthen our relationship with the departed individual we love by recognizing that the separation is temporary and that covenants made in the temple are eternal.
Easter for me is a challenge–how can I better see Joy? Maybe not with my eyes–but with my heart?
I remember the last time I visited Joy’s marker. We call it her marker, because “grave” did not fit. We just can’t call it that. Through the tender mercies of God and the grace and matchless compassion of the angelic cowboys and their wives and families in our small town in Idaho, Joy’s marker sits on a beautiful green hill, in the protective shadow of the Grand Teton.
We say that little spot is her “marker”. The beautiful hill, the pine trees, and the Tetons combine to mark that she was here–that she did make a short appearance on this earth –she was here only three short years. For me, the remembrance of that perfect time could be marked by nothing less than the Tetons. Only that valley and those mountains could do her justice.
So, I went there to ponder. I looked around and tried to grasp the juxtaposition of such beauty and such sharp, stabbing grief in one spot. While I was thus sitting, a whisper came to me, almost an audible voice asking me this question–the same asked of another weeping woman long ago:
Why seek ye the living among the dead?
I paused, taken aback, because I was–to be perfectly honest–in the midst of somewhat feeling sorry for myself, and worrying about ever being able to move far away from her marker. I couldn’t even bear it, actually, and I knew that I would be called to some far off places….and I just didn’t want to leave that valley. It was the nearest thing I’ve ever experienced to heaven in my life.
I couldn’t leave.
I was in the middle of telling Heavenly Father that was just something I could not do when the Spirit said with more conviction:
Why seek ye the living among the dead?
I thought about it–I would not find her here. Over the months since she had gone back to her Heavenly Father, I had come closest to finding her in the most mundane situations and places. But not here. I would not find her here.
I needed to realize that I could spend my whole life staying in this place–this moment in time where I could imagine she would just come running around the corner, her one little curl bouncing and her smile and her chubby little cheeks and feet–or I could seek to find the reality–I could seek her through living hand in hand with Christ, her Friend and her Companion.
So, now, Easter–it’s really not so much a holiday for me–it truly has become a holy day–one of the holiest days in my life, as year after year my eyes are repeatedly stripped of their blindness that seems to continually build up throughout my days, so that I may see with certainty that Christ is Risen. That through water, blood and spirit, I may repeatedly die and be born again, each time coming (hopefully) closer to Joy, through Christ.
What I have also come to see is that it is a miracle whether Christ chooses to raise a daughter from the dead within minutes after that death, or after centuries–the separation is still temporary–
Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
And, for me, this Easter I was able to begin to understand why I must not seek the living among the dead…why there is no reason for this ado–because of my faith in Christ, I know that like Jairus’ daughter, my damsel only sleepeth–and one day–and it will only seem a moment–He will gather me and my family together and we will enter in and He will take her by the hand and say unto her “Talitha cumi,” and she, too, will arise.
And then, I feel it–Easter is about hope and intense, eternal happiness. And, while death is a part of that, it is only a small part.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.