I was crying with my mom on the phone on Friday evening as I told her that I felt as though all the magic and joy had been sucked out of the holidays for me. After losing Garry in October, we have had to endure a rapid succession of “firsts”, whether we were ready for them or not: first Halloween, first anniversary, first birthdays, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first New Year…all without our husband and father. It has been overwhelmingly difficult, to say the least. After New Year’s we got a bit of a reprieve from all the firsts until this weekend. Now here we are facing our first Easter without him.
But this holiday is different for me. Sad, yes. Lonely, yes. Difficult, yes. But there has been something about Easter that has me thinking a little deeper about this hard journey and how, perhaps, the intertwining stories of loss, despair, pain, struggle, sorrow, disbelief, grief, and, ultimately, hope and promise that Easter holds should be a balm to my soul. Let me explain.
On the Friday before Easter, as we all know, Jesus was crucified. On Friday, his disciples–people who had given up everything to follow and learn from him–watched him being tortured and killed before a gloating audience. His mother, Mary, stood at the foot of the cross and watched her son slowly die before her eyes. As I think of this, I can relate to what it must have felt like to watch someone they adored leave this world in the most horrific way possible. I can empathize with them because I, too, had to watch my husband pass from this life. I will never unsee it, and it haunts me.
That Friday was a day filled with fear and pain and anguish, loss and despair and disbelief for Jesus’ disciples and family. But no one ever talks about Saturday. What were the disciples and His family doing on Saturday? I can tell you. They were grieving. They were mourning and wondering what in the world had just happened. They felt confusion and bewilderment. They were angry and lost and scared. So scared. They weren’t sure what to do next. They didn’t know how to move forward in life now that their rock was gone. Remember, they didn’t know Sunday was coming. They didn’t realize that their Messiah would rise from the grave, bringing hope and redemption to an entire world of sinners. They believed their hope for redemption had died when Jesus breathed His last on that cross. On Saturday, they were hopeless.
I am lucky because I have the benefit of hindsight that the disciples didn’t have. I know what comes next in the story. I know that the Christ will rise and bring hope and light to a despairing world. I know that God’s promises will be fulfilled for the salvation of us all in just one day. Hope is not lost. Death has not won.
But as I walk though this valley of grief, I realize that I am stuck in Saturday. Right now, for this season, Saturday is where I’m living most days. I still feel confusion and bewilderment that my husband is actually, really, truly gone. I rage with anger and cower in fear. I am scared and I feel so alone some days. Most days, I don’t know how I can move forward in this life without my rock by my side. But then.
But then, I remember. My Sunday is coming.
I believe that Sunday will come for me and this story of loss and pain and anger and fear will be redeemed. I believe that, with God’s strength surging through my weakness, I will rise from this heap of hopelessness and God will create something beautiful from this mess. I cling to the hope that my frightened steps will become more sure-footed and more deeply rooted in the promise that God has whispered to me over and over again in my life: I have a plan for you, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans for hope and a future. I will hold tightly to his assurance that He will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born from it.
Yes, this Easter will be another first. Another first without my husband. A first for my children without their father. It will be the first Easter that I can even remotely understand the depth of pain this story carries. But also the first Easter that I can truly, deeply understand its ultimate message of hope, promise, and redemption. It will be hard, but I believe it will be beautiful. I may be stuck in Saturday for a while yet, but I know Sunday is coming.
Eagerly, I am waiting on Sunday.