The bad news came on Holy Monday.
It's been many years, seventeen now. I lived in a small apartment with The Father of My Children and Young #1 Son and Very Little Snowman. I was pregnant, and it took us by surprise, and our home and our finances seemed inadequate to another child, but so be it, I thought. I guess this is my life. I won't go to seminary now. I'll wait. In my head I made all the arrangements. We looked at house plans in a new subdivision for middle-income families in a fairly expensive neighboring town. I tried to imagine managing.
After an ultrasound–another boy–we chose a name, and I started to knit a little sweater, a boat neck pattern in navy and white stripes, with little sail boat buttons on the shoulders, to help get the sweater over a baby's head.
But the AFP test concerned the doctor and we had more tests, finally the dreaded amniocentesis. And then we waited for the results.
Weeks went by.
And the bad news came on Holy Monday.
I know people who find this coming Easter unbearable, literally something that they cannot carry, an idea and a season and a concept they want to lay down and leave behind. I know people who find the torment of Jesus in the stories of the coming days shocking and traumatic and, yes, unbearable.
In that Holy Week of 1992, I bore it. I walked through those days knowing that at the end of the week, a child who might have lived would not be living.
A pastoral counselor, worried that I focused too strongly on the date of the appointment, Good Friday, asked me to let that part go, as I would release the spirit of the child and my dreams of him to God. "Wish him well on the journey," said the counselor, a little man with a red beard.
Wish him well on the journey.
The baby's name was Christian, a family name, only adding to the excruciating quality of the week.
1560–70; < L excruciātus, ptp. of excruciāre to torment, torture, equiv. to ex- ex- 1 + cruciāre to torment, crucify (deriv. of crux cross)
Derivative of the cross. Yes.
Growing up Baptist, my idea of Holy Week went something like this: on Palm Sunday we celebrate, on Thursday we have Communion around a big table, on Easter Sunday we dress up and celebrate!
Some years I feel it more sharply than others, unpredictably. But every year I feel a deep tie to the humanity of Jesus, to the sense of shock and disappointment in the reality unfolding before him. Oh, yes, it had to turn out this way. Oh, no, they really can't stick with me. Oh, God, Father, am I not part of you? Is this experience truly inevitable? This body, must I live in it, all the way through this?
Yes. Yes. In this body, all the way through this.
Somewhere, someone is getting bad news on Holy Monday. I don't know you, but I'm praying for you today, and for Christian, even though I don't know for sure when the spirit becomes part of the body, even though I don't know for sure if the little fellow I imagined and wished well on the journey had any soul reality.
I like to think that in the ecology of God's grace, those we lose become part of us and of life in some other way.
And I remember Jesus, who lived through it, in this body. This is not the week to intellectualize his experience, not for me. It's the week to walk it, day by day, the anointing, the turning over of the tables, the gatherings with friends and the (to them) puzzling pronouncements, the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the cup. He lived a life and brought a word and came to understand us from the inside out. In that understanding lies, for me, the hope of reconciliation. His humanity is the Good News for me on Holy Monday.