March 24 was this past Tuesday, and it marked the second anniversary of Cathy’s brutal, inhuman exit from this world. Sally and Susan had asked us Omaha siblings to put some flowers at her cemetery marker that day. Mike, Jana and I, along with Barb, did just that. It was cold and rainy, but we put a beautiful small bouquet in the vase by Mommy’s stone (soon it will be between the two matching stones). Mike brought some of Cathy’s own stones which were precious to her, and some sage, which we burned. I reminded him that in the church when incense is burned, it is a fragrant representation of our prayers rising to God in heaven.
We each prayed in our own way that day. And we took pictures and shared them with Sally and Susan and George. As I have said, we once were seven even if now we are only six.
The picture above is from last year when we began this new, poignant tradition. Year one, and now year two; next year will mark three years.
But standing there in the chilly misty air, I was again struck by the dates on the stones: Cathy’s death was on March 24 and Mommy’s was on March 27.
It took me back to 1966, when I was seven years old and we had said good-bye to Mommy at the mortuary as they closed her casket. I can still see Daddy kissing her good-bye one more time.
I don’t remember the funeral at all. But I remember, a spring day after the funeral. Mommy’s rosebush was blooming so it must have been many weeks later, May or June, and not the chilly spring days of late March or early April. The bush by the front door was covered in those tiny pink roses and I picked some. I broke some small limbs off the yews that were planted across the front of the house, and I made a little floral altar where I could pray. I can remember this all so clearly, just like it happened this past Tuesday, but it was 49 years ago.
Genuflecting in front of my little homemade altar, I prayed:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Dear God. You brought your son Jesus back to life after three days. Would you please just bring Mommy back like that?
Here we are now in 2015 coming into Holy Week. Palm Sunday is three days from now. Maundy Thursday is three days from then. And then Easter, three days later.
In the hymnal, it goes like this:
- All Glory, Laud and Honor
- O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
- Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!
And as I look at the twin headstones and see the three days there (47 years apart) separating the end dates of two women whom I have loved and who loved me, I have to pause here in that middle place. I have to get through Maundy Thursday and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. I can’t leap from the joy of life to the joy of resurrection without walking through the suffering and death of the cross.
Yes, I have to go through. But…I can’t stop there. The deaths of Mommy and Cathy have colored and shaped my life, just as the death of Jesus has. I have mourned, I do mourn and I will mourn.
But oh, that third day – Resurrection Sunday – is where my victory is. And it is where Mommy’s is and Cathy’s is as well. And so I will celebrate their lives and I will find joy there.
Christ the Lord is risen today! The third day.