Posted by: Ingrid | April 13, 2009

He is risen…

Yesterday was Easter and I meant to post this poem that our pastor read in church, but a busy day and no internet precluded me from doing that.

SEVEN STANZAS AT EASTER:  John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

I went through the Easter weekend with death on my mind, inescapably and uncomfortably close.  One of my closest friends is with her family right now and by the end of today her dad could quite possibly be dead.  After going in and out of testing for two years, he was diagnosed with ALS only two months ago (the average life expectancy is 3-5 years after diagnosis).  He was rushed to the hospital a week and a half ago and has been on a ventilator in order to breathe ever since.  From what I heard yesterday, he could quite possibily be taken off today, giving him only a very brief span of time.

It has been bittersweet this weekend, torn between the shadow of death and the hope of the resurrection.  I have been reminded that death is always so much closer and so much more unexpected than we think.  I naively thought, when my mom died almost 2 years ago, that I would be ever vigilant about the inevitability of death, that it would never again take me by surprise.  But it still does.  I couldn’t hold on to it and don’t think it would be appropriate to hold onto it in the way I thought I could. 

It might hurt less though.

I thought I would understand death better, be better equipped to deal with it, have something to say and some sort of comfort to give other people.  Instead I find myself unable to imagine what my friend is facing.  I understand a little more of the expected-but-unexpected sudden and traumatic end of life.  But I don’t understand what it is to be there with the person.  I don’t understand and cannot comprehend the waiting and wondering and watching in the sterile hospital room.  I don’t understand what it is to make end of life decisions and to just… wait.  Will it be quick?  Painless?  Horrific?  Drawn out? 

I grieve for my friend and her family while I rejoice in the hope of Easter, but I find that this lends itself more to tears than celebration right now.

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