By Pastor Paula Burchill
When I hear that there is a death in a family, my first inclination is to bring over some toilet paper. I want to do this because I know that when death happens, it is all encompassing. You are angry, sad, and very often immobilized by grief. So the desire to take the worry about covering for the necessities of life off of someone’s plate is what it is about. Who wants to have to go to Target when you can barely get out of bed? Very often after a huge loss, just being able to eat something is a small victory.
I know where my inclination comes from. When I was 12, my brother drowned in our neighbor’s pool, and the most important memories I carry from that time are how our church and our friends came over and did for our family what we couldn’t do for ourselves—they cleaned, they did laundry, they cooked meals and they brought toilet paper.
Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week is a week of focus on Jesus’ last days on earth before he died a horrific death on the cross. Many people don’t like to focus on the death, and will only come to worship on Easter—when the sanctuary is filled with flowers and great music and Easter dresses with matching hats.
But the thing is, we are fooling ourselves if we pretend that life is all smiles and Easter eggs.
We know this. We have had more than our share of death in this community these past months and years. Young, vibrant teachers and students whose lives were snuffed out way before their time. We are Easter people who live in a Good Friday world.
That is why taking part in the whole week of worship is so important to me. It reminds me that I am not alone in my sorrow and struggles. It reminds me that death does not get the final say. Even though grief will always be a part of life, there is a wider story that God is telling–where death becomes life, in ways that are often what we least expect. Where a family devastated by the drowning of a little boy grows closer to their church and their friends because they find out that they don’t have to live in their grief alone. Someone is going to buy their toilet paper for them.
This Holy Week, I’m going to remember that I don’t live any part of my life alone. That there is no sadness, no anger, no question, no joy that is too big for God to handle. I am going to take part in the story God keeps telling for the world that death has been swallowed up in victory. Oh, there is no promise ever that we will be spared death. The promise is that we won’t be alone in death. That God will stand by us and do for us what we can’t do for ourselves when we are immobilized in our grief.
That is the hope we cling to as Easter people in a Good Friday world.