"Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.'"
- John 11:25
They were 12 complex men - burly, timid and skeptical, yet full of hope that what their magnetic leader had told them was true. When their faith was strong they left fishing nets, took sabbaticals from government positions and borrowed family time to follow him. When faith was weak, like now, they wondered if anything he said was true.
If only he hadn't died! That part of the story was clear. That he would defy logic and walk out of his own grave in a couple days was not.
I used to wonder how I would have reacted to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus if I'd been there when it happened. Would I believe the unbelievable or, like Peter, Thomas and the others, turn in anger that I'd been misled or demand proof before I ever trusted such claims again? Not until I lost someone I loved would I know.
The sun rapidly dispelled the darkness as the early morning flight transported me to my father's funeral. Beneath the kaleidoscopic sunrise a carpet of clouds lay like billions of cotton balls enveloping me in softness, cleanliness, light - all symbols of heaven, where I had been told all my life Christians go when they die.
Unlike the droning engines of my aircraft, in a quietness unknown to human ears, borne by other wings, I imagined my father traveling to a destination from which a return flight would never need to be booked.
Another funeral. I had attended so many, playing the organ or "paying respects," often outside the company of the grieving. But this time my name would be listed in the obituary, I would sit in a row marked "family," and friends would console me.
I whispered the words, "My father is dead," as if by repetition I could accept the truth and the pain would go away. But how would I live without him, without his encouragement, his pride in his only daughter, especially when she had little pride in herself? My thoughts touched appropriate glands and the tears fell.
The clouds outside my window parted and sunrise flooded the space we shared. The scene flooded me with emotion and I flung my burning question into that expanse of bluing sky: Is my father really dead?
He was a courageous man, firm in what he believed - particularly about music. Under his tutelage my brothers and I sang in harmony, played musical instruments and always counted out loud. Sunday afternoons might find him singing operatic arias, beaming when I could play the piano well enough to accompany him.
Soon, at his funeral service, my brother would sing two of his favorite hymns and I would be at the piano. Memorial funds were accumulating to train organists to serve in the church where his mother once played and where he attended, sang in the choir and led generations of children in choirs of their own. My father's understanding of music as a means of worship was still alive in his children and others.
I thought of Gabriel Faure's Requiem Mass that I had sung with the Augusta Choral Society the previous spring, especially of the final movement: In Paradisum, In Chorus Angeli, and I pictured a seasoned baritone who had transferred from Sunday afternoons with a novice accompanist to an eternity of singing days accompanied by finely tuned harps and other angels.
My mood rose in counter motion as the plane began its descent. I still grieved, but my questioning mind was at peace. I was comforted by my father's release from the pain he had suffered for so long. His doctor thought he would live until Christmas, but God pardoned him three months early, replacing his worn-out body with one that would never hurt again.
It was a loving reunion. There were more tears and there is an empty place, but grief has passed with time. A week later I was on another plane. There was little to see because it was night. My journey took seven hours.
My father is experiencing perpetual day. Before I boarded the plane he was already home.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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