“Listening to a witness makes you a witness.” — Elie Wiesel
By Trudy Wischemann
Spring is a funny season. After winter’s dormancy, we expect to be overjoyed by the increased day length and warmth, the blooms and beauty. But Spring is not all about Life. Death is right smack in the middle of it.
Every year, as Easter approaches, I find myself wanting to run in another direction. Yes, the chocolate bunnies remind me of my long-gone youth, slightly unpleasant. But my aversion is to the Cross: the paradox of Jesus’ death bringing us new life, and the blind faith required to accept the Resurrection.
I didn’t have much faith in my upbringing. My parents took me to church occasionally as a way of exposing me to this thing called Christianity. It was irregular and not a matter of faith, but simply a desire for social interaction and acceptability on my mother’s part, and a source of resistance on my father’s, who raised me to suspect anyone capable of blind faith. We did not pray at home, over dinner or before bed, in times of trouble or thanksgiving. We did not read the Bible or tell the stories from that religious tradition. Faith in ourselves was all we had, and that was sorely tried many times.
My own experiences of something beyond myself and other people began after I left home, after I left my short-lived marriage. They started happening when I found myself alone, living on thin resources. I didn’t know what to call them then, but at least I didn’t have anyone telling me they were accidents or figments of my imagination.
Recently I was interviewed about my experiences leading to this time and place, how I came to adopt Lindsay as my substitute home town. The story would make a deer path look straight, but when I began pinpointing the influences at each turn, the hand of Grace was evident even to my interviewers. The interview itself felt like Grace: the opportunity to assemble the chronology, the cast of characters, the miraculous turns left me wordless for a day.
After the Palm Sunday service this week, I spent some time trying to comprehend my aversion to what’s coming – the cross and the empty tomb. Yes, I do not like death. Despite my many decades studying the human condition, I still find it hard to believe that Jesus had to be tortured to provide for humanity’s salvation. In the two thousand years since that ugly event, it’s hard to see evidence that it was worth it. But, of course, there’s no way to see what it would have been like if he’d mounted a throne instead of the cross.
Looking at the data, what do we have? A verbal painting of the Last Supper, Judas lurking in the shadows. Three crowing cocks, Pilate, the middle-class citizens of Jerusalem screaming for Jesus’ head, the crown of thorns. The nails, the last words, and testaments of some women, deeply moved by Jesus’ life coming to tend him in his postmortem state, finding him missing. Just stories from witnesses to the event not written down for decades, with literal quotes as if it happened yesterday. All of this interpreted to mean he was the Son of God after all, proof.
Suddenly, one event of this past year—my father’s death—made this comprehensible. As I hung up from the phone call telling me he’d left us, I turned toward my kitchen and saw the whole house glowing with his love for me. I’d had trouble believing it before, having suffered his wide range of tempers that obliterated so many of his efforts. But there it was, the truth released by death from the conflict of life.
Remembering that, I understood how the women who went to the tomb knew the meaning of his missing body. The truth was released by death from the conflict of life. It was the period on the sentence of Jesus’ teachings in his brief time here, the love made more real by the tragic end. They were witnesses to it all, and now we are witnesses by having heard their stories.
Enjoy your Easter eggs and the love of families, everyone. It’s real.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural researcher who writes. You can send her your resurrection stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.