We laid him to rest a few months after he died.
Military funerals take some time to arrange, so I had hoped against hope that the months would give me time to prepare for the finality of what was coming. But looking back on it now, the amount of time between his accident and burial felt more like a time to be endured than a time to live in. The moments blurred and bled into one another making the months feel more akin to one long, drawn out day.
In short: Though time moved forward, I did not.
It was a state of limbo like the dark day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
A Holy Saturday of my own: a state of being neither in the life I knew before nor a life that is to come. And even though I had very little tangible faith back then, I think I largely believed in some sense, that if I lived “nobly” enough or put on a brave face until the funeral, that a God I didn’t really believe in might decide to give him back to me.
I longed for a resurrection I had no right to believe in.
I think this is the state of mind that Joan Didion referred to as “magical thinking.” A state where delusion is the only accessible form of comfort within reach as we scramble to make sense of what came to pass without knowing how to leave it in our past.
The delusions gave way to reality the day of his services, as did any comfort they brought with them.
Any semblance of denial I had been living in was buried with him, and I remember coming home and feeling as if everything inside me had been carved out and replaced with the ground that now lay on top of him. And I finally had to accept that it was over. All the promise of a life with him, and the future that called me into each day was finished. And there would be no more.
In the shadow of this reality, against all rationale and reason, I found myself kneeling beside my bed and struggling against words that were clawing their way out of me from the depths of my spirit.
And I remember pleading: Please…please come back.
The futility of saying these words was not lost on me. I knew the implausibility of the request I was making, and yet I kept speaking these words over and over again…
Please, come back.
Simple words that were drawn from the deepest parts of my heart that slowly poured and cascaded into a flowing litany of lament:
Please. Come back.
This can’t be happening.
Because this world is mean and I cannot stand to be here.
Because you were good.
Come back, please.
Because you told me the truth.
Because I could tell you the truth.
Because you would hear it.
I’m begging you: Please, come back now.
Because this hurts.
Because I’m lost. And I don’t know what I’m doing.
Please. Come back.
Years have gone by since that moment, and in those years I have come to see that those words which rang so empty to me had been ringing in the ears of God since before there was any time for Him to move through. I’ve come to see that He was waiting for the fullness of time and the cries of the disciples on Holy Saturday before He spoke his word back to humanity once and for all.
There’s a kinship in those words between all who have spoken similar ones and the first followers of Christ. There’s a comfort in knowing that I was not the first person to pray a prayer against hope, a prayer asking for the impossible: for the one that we love to come back to us.
I wasn’t the first, and I certainly won’t be the last.
I have very little doubt that the followers of Christ were also not the first people to make such a request of God. They were, however, the first to have their Holy Saturday prayers answered, when on Sunday, if we can bring ourselves to believe such a thing could happen… Jesus rose again.
It is an incredibly difficult thing to believe…that a broken and tortured rabbi was put to death only to rise as a God who is a true light in the darkness. A God who, before the foundations of the Earth were laid, saw that the deepest cries of our heart would pour from the grief and pain of loss and who answered those pleas with his life.
A God who waits in the hell that is Holy Saturday- between tragedy and the resurrection of new life- and walks with us from one side to the other.
A God who is good.
A God who comes back for us.
Who tells us the Truth because He is it.
A God who returns because we are lost, and we don’t know what we are doing.
A God who hears us.
Who knows this world is mean and how we hurt while in it.
A God who “put to death the power death held over us.”
Because He knows the way. Because He is the Way.
Because He is a God who loves us and who does not leave us -not even for a moment- to walk alone.