Sunday, April 20, 2003

He Is Risen

Lent and Easter are my favorite times of the liturgical year. Through the years, I have swung between faith, doubt, and disbelief, but I always find meaning in the meditative penance of Lent followed by the unlikely joy of Easter. It's all so improbable - just as Spring seems impossible in the depths of January, and joy and excitment seem dead forever when you're in the darkest depression. But somehow it happens. The crucified Jesus greets Mary in the garden. The black drapings of the Good Friday service come down, revealing the radiant white of Easter. The sun comes up, the snow melts, the dark night of the soul ends and life seems possible again.

Eight Easters ago, I was recovering from a late miscarriage. Eighteen weeks into my first pregnancy, I had gone to a regular prenatal visit, and the doctor had not been able to find the baby's heartbeat. The excitement and anticipation of my pregnancy were stolen and replaced by a nightmare of hopeless and despair. My body refused to surrender the dead fetus, so a D&C was necessary. I spent Easter in bed, bleeding like a stuck pig and crying every time I woke up and remembered (again) that my child-to-be was gone. I felt divorced from reality, like I was floating in a bubble of grief and shock. It seemed impossible that I would ever have a child or a happy, normal life again.

I hesitate to describe what happened next, lest I sound like a freaky religious wingnut. It is entirely possible that my experience was a hallucination induced by my pain meds, or by my desperate need for some kind of hope. All I know, is that I was laying in my bed, feeling empty and detached, when I suddenly felt an overwhelming, physical sense of comfort, exactly as though an infinitely loving someone had wrapped me in a warm and enveloping embrace. I was filled with the certain knowledge that God loved me and that everything would work out. This sensation lasted a long time and when it faded, I was left with the feeling that things were not entirely hopeless. Everything didn't suddenly become better, but it was the beginning of my emotional recovery.

Two years later, I attended Easter services with my month old baby boy. Today the four of us will share a pew and sing "He Lives" together (Adam somewhat reluctantly). Next year, there will be another baby boy to photograph in his Easter best and hold in my lap through the service. Life goes on. Hopes are miscarried, loved ones die, and relationships fracture, but babies keep being born, new opportunities arise, and new friends and loved ones enter our lives. In the midst of grief and sorrow, the impossible happens and we discover joy. He is risen indeed.

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