Sometimes, I look back at reflections that I have written and sometimes cringe at wilful cruelty to the English Language, or at an inadvertently hurtful comment. Sometimes I am surprised and pleased by what my younger, and less experienced self, wrote. So, on this joyful Eastertide, I am offering again, with slight corrections, the first reflection that I published on this website, Easter 2011, because it still represents my considered view.
Jesus is dying in agony on the cross. He sees his mother and one of the disciples mourning below. Jesus says to her: “He is your son” and to the disciple: “She is your mother”. The disciple takes Mary to live in his home.
When someone close to us dies, we have a choice. We can mourn for the rest of our lives, or we can go out and replace that relationship with new relationships. Jesus was clear: Mother, take a new son!
In a forest, when a big tree falls down because of old age, lightning strike, or a woodman’s chainsaw, life around suddenly accelerates. All the little tree seedlings, previously doomed to a shaded existence with insufficient light, moisture, or goodness of soil to thrive, start shooting up to reach for the hole in the sky created by the big fallen ancestor.
We are surrounded by many wonderful people. Strangers are friends we have not yet met. We only have time for so many relationships. So, when someone close to us dies and leaves such a hole in our lives that we ache, we can seize the opportunity to forge a relationship with some other person or persons.
We can of course say: “No one can replace her, or him”; we can say “S/he is not really dead, just in the next room”; we can wish away the rest of our lives waiting to be reunited after death. Or, storing our happy memories, we can live life to the full now, every day, forging new relationships for mutual support and comfort. Our choice.
Someone, somewhere, first interpreted the Easter morning story as meaning that we shall all live again after death; we have all been taught to believe it. My parents believed it. It has been useful to many powerful people and governments over the years to keep the quality of life low for the poor with the promise of a better life to come. I don’t find it a necessary belief. What happens to me after death is far less important, for instance, than what shape I leave the world in for my great grandchildren. Easter eggs and baby rabbits are symbols of life’s constant renewal. I earnestly pray for it.
Along with Christian Aid, I believe in life before death, with all the responsibility and promise that brings. I will rejoice and be glad in it!