I saw something on Facebook that said today is the day Judas decided to sneak off and agreed to give away Jesus’ location; a decision that sent history and spirituality in a drastically new direction. Tomorrow is the night of the Last Supper, and the beginning of the Passion where Jesus stays up all night and prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s not afraid of dying. God can’t die. He is afraid of the horrible pain that the human part of his nature is going to have to endure, though.
Death is a very weird part of life. My dad and I listened to a story on NPR a few weeks ago about a woman who trains forest rangers on what to do when they find a dead body in the woods. She talked about how people generally want to see the body and say goodbye. For some reason, this wasn’t the case for me when my dad’s father died several years ago. I never saw his body. I chose not to. I’m not sure why that was.
I’m really comfortable with the idea of an afterlife. I never knew my mom’s dad. He died when I was only about a year old. I just figure I’ll have a lot of annoying questions for them both when I get to heaven. The thing is, it’s fun to think about heaven or eternity or paradise, or whatever one wants to call it, but nonetheless, death is weird. It’s weird for the people who are left behind.
My dad’s father was seriously sick and stuck in a nursing home for two years. By the end, though it felt wrong, or strange, or both, I found myself praying that God would take him. Then I found that I didn’t feel as sad about his death as I thought I should. It was, what I would call, an unfortunate relief.
The other night my epilepsy was acting up, and I found myself praying nearly the same thing that Jesus did on the first Holy Thursday: God, if there’s a way that you can get rid of this, please make it go away, but if it’s meant to be for whatever reason, I pray that your will is done. Shortly after that I fell asleep. There is nothing better than sleep when dealing with epilepsy. I am hardly exaggerating when I say it feels like dying and coming back to life. It’s strange and scary, but it induces the deepest sleep.
I try to envision myself as one of Jesus’ friends, and I wonder what they must have been thinking this week, and particularly over the next few days. Beyond the question of whether or not he was or wasn’t the Messiah they had been waiting for, their friend was in a terrible emotional state to begin with, but then he had to be tortured and executed. Just reading or hearing the story makes me angry and sad, and I can’t imagine what they must have been feeling.
I imagine that Saturday was the worst, though. The initial shock was over. Everyone was hiding and waiting. Probably some of the Apostles had forgotten about what was supposed to happen on Sunday. They were probably thinking more about what on earth they were going to do next. Their leader was gone, and with that, they probably felt like their purpose truly was, or may have been lost. On top of all of that, all but one of them had abandoned Jesus, and they now had to deal with the self-incriminating emotions connected with that.
What I do know is that they had hope. Jesus told them that they were going to mess up, but that they were also going to turn back. They didn’t initially know what they were doing, but once they did, they had something to hold onto. And still, death is a weird thing. I may have hope that I’m going to see my grandfathers in heaven, but for years now they’ve been in a place I can’t get to. When I was in middle school, I remember being vaguely familiar with a girl who had cancer, though I didn’t know it for a long time. I was not particularly religious at the time, and all I can remember thinking when she passed was, “Now what?”
Whether we’re talking about the wait for heaven, or the Easter Triduum, there is always this feeling of “Now what?” It’s this strange, irreconcilable jolt of separation that even the most hopeful have to deal with.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!