After my mother’s funeral, I drove home and took off my wet, muddy clothes, and found that I could barely move.My flesh had turned to sand and I couldn’t make my limbs work. I crawled into bed, and the longer I stayed there, the heavier I got.
I kept thinking about how my mother’s body was so light, they let her coffin down into the grave by hand.They used heavy machinery to place my father in the ground just before Easter last year, but my mother had become very light.
In my mother’s funeral sermon, the priest spoke of Lazarus. Martha thought her brother’s death was a stupid, pointless death. She accuses Jesus: If you had been here, our brother would not have died! And she was right. But Jesus wanted to show them, I suppose, that he is who he says he is. He is the resurrection and the life.Where he is, there life is. That’s who he is, said the priest: He is the Resurrection. And he comes as close as he pleases, when he pleases, to do as he pleases.
In this story, he raises his voice, and Lazarus comes out. They undo everything that has been done: They take his winding cloth off, they feed him again. Lazarus lives again.
I wonder if Lazarus was afraid to go to sleep that night. I wonder how he felt when the newness of his new life wore off and he sinned again for the first time: how stupid he must have felt when he had to repent again, even after he had already died.
I wonder how he felt later, when he started to die again for the second time. Maybe by that time he had gotten blasé about the process, and thought he’d be protected from that final darkness for a second time.
Or maybe he was afraid he would be rescued, afraid he’d be called back and asked, for some reason, to do it all again.
Isn’t it awful, sinning again and again? Facing death, being rescued, sinning and repenting and being forgiven, and then going out and doing it again?
When my mother first became a Christian, she was crushed to realize it was still very easy to sin. She had heard, and read, and taken to heart the idea that baptism brings the life of Christ into human souls. She thought that, since Jesus had taken up residence there, He would therefore prevent her from doing anything bad. She thought that you choose Jesus and jump in the water, and when you come up again, you’re set for life.
But that’s not how it works. I don’t know which sin she committed that showed her how wrong she was, but I imagine it was something petty, something small and human, which nonetheless showed her very starkly that you can be washed in the blood of the Lamb and then go right back to acting like a stupid sheep.
In fact, it’s inevitable. You go back, Jack, do it again. It’s not a “one and done” situation. It’s an “over and over and over again” situation, and you don’t always know what it’s for.
One stupid thing about the way my mother died was that she was a frail and tiny woman whose brain had long since been pillaged by dementia.
She couldn’t dress herself, or speak, or sit up, and sometimes she forgot how to eat. So this little tiny ravaged woman got Covid. Then she beat Covid, and recovered completely from Covid, and began to get stronger, and then she died anyway of something else.
I think they called it “undetermined” on her death certificate, which made me laugh a little. I snickered through my tears that I knew the real reason she died.
Image: Resurrection of Lazarus, Workshop of Daniel Chorny and Andrey Rublev, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons