We have just celebrated Easter. We have enjoyed a glorious four-day weekend. Some have taken the chance to get away, others, like us, have spent time locally catching up with friends and family.
Our family go to church both on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, then host an open home egg-painting “eggstravaganza” where we share with friends and neighbours our Latvian way of Easter egg painting. My daughter now looks forward to this tradition more than the Easter bunny’s arrival on Sunday morning. I would like to say that is her community minded nature shining through but I fear it has more to do with the fact that she now knows the Easter bunny is not real – so the morning egg hunt has lost its magic for her.
Amidst all the fun of the family traditions my thoughts and prayers often wander to how those who have lost their loved ones cope.
Even as a Christian with an active daily faith in an awesome God – I find myself questioning how people who have gone through the gut-wrenching loss of a loved one find the strength to live on. How can they find hope when things seem so hopeless? When death seems to have the upper hand consuming all with relentless waves of grief?
I sat in Good Friday’s service and heard a friend share her testimony of battling crippling anxiety and depression that consumed her life with suicidal thoughts and feelings of worthlessness – yet she testified to God’s intervention and complete healing – physical, mental and spiritual – so that she now knows how precious and worthy she is.
I sat in Easter Sunday’s service watching a couple holding a hospital bear, quietly singing along to the words of songs about a resurrection life – and I thought how? How can they even mouth the words when their hearts are breaking? How can anyone sing about the joy of a new life when they had faced, or were facing something as awful and final as death?
I got home and remembered my dog-eared copy of Leigh Sales book “Any Ordinary Day – blindsides, resilience and what happens after the worst day of your life”. After suffering her own blindside Leigh set out to interview several other Australians who have suffered unthinkable losses to ask them how they have found the strength to live on. After interviewing the likes of Stuart Diver (who lost his first wife Sally in the landslide at Thredbo in 1997 and his second wife Rosanna to breast cancer in 2015), Walter Mikac (who lost his wife Nanette and both daughters Alannah and Madeline in the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996) – Leigh Sales discovered that instead of brokenness there was hope.
“…at the start of this process I wondered if I were making a mistake; if meeting the people in these pages and asking them about the deep blows they’d sustained would finally tip me over the edge. I thought that perhaps all these tragic stories might crush me under their weight and I’d never get out of bed again. Instead the opposite happened. They’ve given me hope. What people can get through is truly amazing.”p229 “Any Ordinary Day” Leigh Sales
I remembered Matt Golinski and his incredible story of navigating his way through his darkest valley to find the hope for his future.
It is not the end. There is more.
On Easter Monday I watched Brené Brown’s teaching entitled “The call to courage” on Netflix where she spoke of her own research into resilience and the recovery of joy after unspeakable events. The single factor present amongst all who had endured the toughest circumstances and found hope and joy was – gratitude. The tangible, daily and moment by moment practice of gratitude – the kind that requires reflection and genuine thankfulness – invites hope and joy back in to our lives.
“It is not joy that makes us grateful but gratitude that makes us joyful.”David Steindl-Rast
The Easter story is more than a story. It is history. It speaks to the ugliness, the unfairness and the brutality of life. The finality of death. And then the hope.
It is not the end. There is more.
There are no words to be said when we witness unjust death. There are no words when we see parents lose their children, when husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers die suddenly, when hundreds are killed in senseless attacks, when accidents happen and family members never return home.
If you are amongst those who know loss like this, please don’t give up. Though the path is dark and the pain is all consuming. It is not the end. There is hope.
There is uncertainty. There is sorrow. There is risk. There is gut-wrenching pain. There is anger and hurt. But there is hope. It is not the end. There is more.
Your heart continues to beat. You are alive. Your life, your story it continues. There are chapters to be written by you. In the everyday, ordinary, wonderful moments in life, or in the extraordinary ways in which you will make your world a better place just because you carry the wisdom of knowing just how precious and fragile this life is.
It is not the end. There is more for you.