It is still dark outside, very early in the morning. Nancy is still asleep as are the dogs, but here I am at my laptop. I woke up early, as is the case at times, but this time I woke up from a dream, a dream I at least partially remember. This dream raised questions, was instructive and so I want to share the wanderings of my mind.
In the dream I was to officiate at a memorial service or was it a funeral or was it to be a “celebration of life?” Whose memorial? I do not know. Where was the service? I do not know. This dream simply raised the question “Do we know how to grieve?” I know that this is a heavy topic, one we do not want to read about, think about, for we avoid death, deny death at every turn.
Today in many, do I even say most, congregations we have “Celebrations of Life” and not memorial services. We are long past the decades of funeral services with an open casket, and we have even evolved into remembering all the positive stories about our loved ones rather than grieving the loss of our beloved.
Is that bad? No, not exactly. We need to remember, to remember the positive impact of our loved ones upon our lives. We need to share those stories. It is important and the sharing of those stories is also a part of the grieving process, and yet….
In our “Celebrations of Life” do we want to avoid Good Friday, death? Do we want to avoid Holy Saturday, the time between death and new life, the time of uncertain waiting, of longing, of grieving, of hoping beyond hope? Do we simply want to pole vault over death and grief to the resurrection, to new life? In the Christian tradition whole denominations seem to ignore Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus and energetically celebrate the Resurrection on Easter. We want to deny death, sugar coat it, avoid it and so we race to “Celebration.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “…that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (I Thessalonians 4:13b, RSV) Beth Allen Slevcove in the helpful book Broken Hallelujahs wrote, ” Grief work is culturally inappropriate behavior.” (p. 95) But when we deny grief we deny reality and we are not prepared for the entry of resurrection newness. Again Slevcove wrote, “Our deepest places of hope and vision often correspond to our greatest places of wounding.” (ibid, p. 87)
And yet each of us grieve in our own way. Each of us grieve on our own time table. People grieve, not as I think they should or as others advise them, but let each of us grieve as we know how. May we grieve so that the reality of all our Good Friday loses are acknowledged and the questions and doubts and uncertainties of our Holy Saturdays are surfaced and then God will break open our tombs of death and even denials into the newness of the Easter Resurrection.
I had a dream and that dream left me with questions and so I leave you also with questions.
*How do you grieve the big and the little loses of your life? *Is there a place in your life to acknowledge death and to allow it to teach you the lessons that you need to learn? *How has Easter mornings brought about new life for you from the pain of Good Friday and perceived hopelessness of Holy Saturday?