In anticipation of living into the Christian calendar’s season of Easter, I asked several Partners to write about resurrection – perhaps how the meaning of the word has changed or expanded, altered in some way through the years. Today Kathy Kiesser speaks to her recent and poignant experience of resurrection.
Thank you, Kathy!
What is resurrection?
Resurrection is an intimidating word, theologically loaded, a bigger than life idea and mostly a remote concept. But recently I experienced a fluttering of the veil, an unexpected glimmer, of life that is bigger than this life. Life beyond, but not entirely out of reach from this life. So, I dare to share from a limited personal experience of how this fragrance coming from the death bed of loved ones, drew me into accepting Doug’s invitation to write about resurrection.
Richard Rohr writes:
“We are born with a longing, a desire, and deep hope that this thing called life could somehow last forever. It is a premonition from something eternal that is already within us…”
I resonate with Rohr’s quote, a deep hope, a desire to experience what is beyond the immediate experience of my own everyday-ness. A goodness to living I can’t see but catch a smell of in my imaginings. CS Lewis calls it ‘deep magic’ in his Chronicles of Narnia.
My own recent encounter of ‘deep magic’ came in early January. While I expected and even prayed my mother’s fight against Alzheimer’s would end, it was unexpected to get the call she had stopped eating. I quickly packed and left for LA. Even though we had grieved over the last years over the small and big ways the disease took the best parts of her from us, death is always unexpected. I took comfort in the fact that my dad was with her and was somewhat aware of her condition despite his recent mini stroke.
What came unexpectedly on the second day of our vigil of prayers for mom, was finding we were also walking Dad towards his forever home. Overnight, he turned a corner, perhaps readier than he knew to give up the fight. It was a great blessing they were together in the same room of their care facility and the palliative care nurses were right there holding the medical supports. It wasn’t long before we realized how helpless we were to hasten or delay their progression towards heaven. We moved Dad near to the window because there was something in the fresh air that invited guardian angels to come.
In the midst of the storm as organs began to shut down, a peacefulness flooded the room, easing our tears. There was also a wonderment paired with shock in the realization that both parents were taking their leave of us at the same time.
My sister looked at me and asked, “Did they make a pact to go like this? Does God honor those prayers?”
We held their hands with our hands and walked the course laid before them as best we could.
Early the next day, I held Dad’s giant farmer hands, now folded over his quiet chest still warm after he crossed the finish line. New day light poured into the room and with it a fragrance of peace, a peace laced with a sweetness. The sweetness was like a goodness that an ending had come, so a beginning could be made, one just beyond my seeing. I felt deep loss, and also a sweet aftertaste, almost like if looked through the kaleidoscope I would see him smiling with a wave goodbye just as he had done so many times from the front steps of their house.
Mom eased into heaven the next morning, waiting ‘till we all gathered around her so she could see were all okay. She took her last breath every so gracefully, then slipping out of the Alzheimer’s cocoon she tip-toed into the morning of new life. She is free, I thought, to do all she could not do in these last years. There again came a sorrow and sweetness of death caught up in the goodness of a life born anew into a new self, one free of the aliments and the encumbrances of this life, an awakening to her true self. It was quite beautiful to think of them both as more than what they were in their prime in this life, more full of their unique selves.
That glimpse of new life arriving in their dying has lingered unexpected with me. As if the veil blown aside for a short moment gave me a picture of this life birthing us into the next life. And a new freedom to wonder if Jesus invites us to live into His resurrected life might mean that we live as best we can out of what our own resurrected life might be like.
Instead of being defined by our brokenness, what if a picture of resurrection here and now could enable me to embrace, even accept all my unfinished, unholy, uncontrolled and even unknown self? What if my brokenness is less important to my Creator than the true self I am called into in Christ? Did not Christ pay the price of my unholiness?
If in our next life, our resurrected life, we are free of all our human brokenness, our misguided motivations, our prideful actions, our insecurities, and more, then to receive His invitation to follow Him might mean to live more into the freedom of our new self in this life. Rohr again:
“The True Self, ‘our name in heaven,’ is our participation in the great ‘I Am.’ It is what Peter daringly calls the ‘ability to share the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4).”
If we are participants in His divine nature and each of us shares in that nature, does resurrection mean to the yet un-resurrected we can live into our ‘true self’—the self our Creator envisioned us in already?
Could it be possible for me to trust that despite the fact(s) I don’t get my devotionals done every day and I have not yet finished Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle (might not ever), and am still harboring the little hidden resentment against those who shall not be named—all these and more short-comings—Jesus simply brushes aside, He receives me saying, “Come follow me, there is much more to you than those.”
On good days, I catch a whiff of this life-giving resurrection living. And I pray for all of you also to catch a whiff on the breeze of the Spirit of resurrection freedom.