Sometimes the high holy days of the Christian calendar come at inconvenient times in our lives. This Resurrection season comes on the heels of me burying my brother, whom I have been caring for since the last major Christian holiday…Christmas. It’s been a difficult journey to say the least. I’ve struggled to write anything. I’ve broken promises to people and avoided social spaces. More than anything, I’ve been forced to wrestle with the fact that I struggle to ask people for help.
I think this is a universal churchy experience…the inability to ask for or receive help. One thing I know for sure is that people often do not know how to be of service in times of grief. And grieving people often do not know how to ask for help. A lot of it has to do with money. As much as I needed help getting my brother’s affairs in order, I knew asking anyone to travel with me to the hospital or to his home was expensive because most of our family members live states and states away.
Dealing with impending death is anxiety-causing to say the least, and isolation provides a temporary escape valve. The tiny particles of peace I found in isolating myself made asking for help a type of betrayal. It can make one resist asking for help. But there is also simply the not knowing how to do it. So many of us are the people others turn to for help. We are the organizers, the “I’ll take care of it/I’ll get it done” crew, the advice givers and feelings caretakers. We have a hard time asking for what we give out in buckets. I’ve heard “I’m sorry” are two of the hardest words to say. Yet, so are “help me.”
I’ve thought about Mary, the mother of Jesus, a lot on this journey…dealing with the impending death of a loved one. Whether by terminal illness or execution by the state (because she know the minute she heard ‘to the cross with the prisoner,’ there would be no reprieve for Jesus), there is a special pain when you have time to think about the reality that this person you love will soon be no more.
After my brother died, I had to go back to his home and begin the process of packing up his life. His house was like a tomb. An empty space where life no longer resides. I thought a lot of about the Marys in the New Testament accounts of Jesus death: Mary, Jesus’ momma, Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas. Going to the grave of Jesus to anoint his body. I have a different appreciation for that now…going into spaces where you know someone is dead. I think about Jesus’ death differently. Calvary. Where Mary experienced the stench of her son’s blood assailing her nostrils. Hospital smell. The experience of the doctor telling you exactly what you do not want to hear. Mary, present when Jesus took his first breath and there when he breathed his last. I was present with my brother when his spirit left his body. I have no words right now for that experience but it gave me a sharper sense of clarity for Mary at Calvary. Watching. Seeing. Knowing.
Resurrection Sunday reminds us that God put a comma where the world placed a period. This year, I am reminded that even in the midst of unbearable, unspeakable pain, God is present. And whenever and wherever God is present, there is hope.