Holy Days

Good Friday

It was Good Friday, 1992. We woke up before dawn, and although the date was late in April, it was snowing. We gathered ourselves up to go to the hospital. It was a hard, cold day. The baby I was carrying had a genetic abnormality, and we would come home later in the day without him. The world looked the same on the surface. The early morning snow was melting. But the inner landscape was forever marked by that day. At home the boys crawled over me like puppies happy to see their mother again, but they knew something was very wrong. Something was very wrong with me.

I went on a long time talking and thinking about how hard it was to lose the baby, whose name would have been Christian, on Good Friday. It’s still a hard day for me. This morning in the car, listening to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, I began to weep at his description of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. So many soldiers had died, and so many are dying now, this very week, perhaps this very day—and just like Christian they leave a brutal emptiness behind, a cruel mark on the landscape.

I’m reminded of the Southern mountains where the coal companies simply sheered the tops of mountains and drop them over the side to fill in the valleys. The landscape is forever changed: streams are buried; the mountaintops, round with age, disappear, and so do the verdant valley forests; whole towns are forced to relocate.

That Easter Sunday, 1992, was bitterly beautiful. The sun shone so brightly, it was hard to believe there had been snow just two days before. Grieving, I woke remembering again the terrible emptiness. How would I face Easter? And yet I found myself the next year, although mourning still, working through that sadness in Holy Week and ready to rejoice on Easter morning.

The landscape of Good Friday had changed for me. The incomprehensible suffering and the inconsolable grieving are carved into me. And I think perhaps they open me to a deeper joy in those I love, a fuller embrace of what is good, a keener understanding of the complexity of life and of the compassion of God.

It is Good Friday, 2004. At noon, I will be sitting in a semi-circle with just a few people from my church, reading the gospel, praying together and singing some favorite Taizé chants. Outside the world will go by, and nothing will seem different, but for us, I hope, there will be deepening and opening and understanding.