27 December 2010


Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.

Martha's words reverberate in my mind. I imagine her choking on sobs as she said them, the words coming out with a pained and bitter tang, her gaze both fierce and penetrating. She knows he could have spared her brother from death and consequently, her from the sorrow she and her sister shared.

Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.

Lord, if You had been here, my son ...

And then Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating that indeed He has power over death. In that moment, life prevails. A brother is reunited with his sisters, and the joy of resurrection eclipses the sorrow of death.

It has only been recently that I thought of Lazarus and how, quite frankly, he must have had the rawest end of the deal. Sure, he was raised to life again, but if it's true he was in heaven or some sort of paradise, then it is also true that he was taken from that place. In being restored to earthly life, he had to die again. As far as I know, he isn't still walking around telling everyone of how he had died, but was later raised to life.

The miracle of Lazarus' resurrection was only a temporary fix. Death would come again, not just for him, but for his sisters as well. And though they had witnessed something incredible, it was also true that they still had to live with the grime of earth, with dust on their feet and with callouses on their hands. They would hurt and laugh and smile and suffer.

I had a dream last night that Ewan was still with us. In my dream, we were still in the hospital, and he was still fighting. When I saw him in my dream, his body had shrunk to just a couple of pounds and his body and head were contorted into an unnatural and uncomfortable-looking position. I picked him up to comfort him, to take him home. I did so with the knowledge that his suffering and ours would be great. But I did not hesitate.

Jesus could have spared Ewan's life in those early hours of October 4. And many times I have thought: Lord, if You had been there ... but no sooner does the thought form than I realize that staying death on that day would only be saving it for another. I recognize that in Ewan's passing, my fervent and tearful pleas for God's mercy on him were answered in the affirmative. I recognize that Ewan has gotten the far better thing and for his sake, I would not wish him back again.

But I, like Martha before the resurrection of her brother, still feel the sorrow that death brings for those of us who are left here. Ewan enjoys paradise, and for that I rejoice -- truly. But it does not follow that this knowledge dries my tears. Those remain. And if I believe the beatitudes, Jesus' proclamations of "Blessed are they ...", then I am blessed in my mourning. The world and death have acquainted me intimately with a knowledge of the fall and its consequences; they have in fact wounded me. But heaven will one day heal it all.

If I hope in anything, it is in that. Not for happiness or healing here, not for a broken world to act like it is fixed, but for the life I will enjoy when I am Home for good, when I experience the life that my son has gone ahead of me to enjoy.