“Death seems scary to me,” she said, as we drove out of the parking lot after Good Friday services.
Behind us the purple sunset sky, along with the memory of a bare sanctuary, extinguished candles, blackened cross, and the words of John. It is finished.
“That story,” she said, “Is so intense, uncomfortable, painful. But I know what happens on Sunday! It’s going to be better! He will come back. There will be flowers in the church, and it will be beautiful.”
My eleven year old daughter has been attending Good Friday services since she was an infant. She has always heard the story through the ears of a child. She has witnessed many dramatic services – to the point that she now gives me director notes for next year. She knows the pomp and circumstance of Easter. She knows we stand for Handel and that flowers will fill the cross. She expects trumpets.
This year, her questions and her observations were more complicated.
“But what is heaven like?” she asked. “How old are you in heaven?” “Where was God when Jesus died?”
“I haven’t been to heaven lately,” I said, “So I don’t know a lot about it. I’m not sure how old you are when you are there. Those are good questions. I can only tell you what I believe. I believe that heaven is not a very far off place, but is very close to us. I believe that death is only a moment, and after death is eternal, (that means forever). I also believe, that we are closest to the people we love, and we never leave them.”
“But, did God leave, Jesus? Why did Jesus have to go through all of that?”
“I do not believe that God ever left Jesus. Ever. Ever. Ever. God never leaves his children to suffer alone. There are big words like atonement, redemption, and salvation that are hard to understand. People called theologians have long tried to explain why Jesus suffered and died on the cross.”
“It’s because we all sin and need forgiveness, right?”
“Yes, but I think it’s more than that. I think Jesus saw the world as it was and he knew that there could be another way to live. He spent his whole life trying to teach people to live a new way. He also saw that people suffer terribly at the hands of other people and by personal affliction (like the story of the man born blind)….I think that his suffering stands in solidarity for all of humanity’s suffering. I think his whole life and his death and his resurrection are all messages to every life.”
“So Jesus knows how we feel.”
“Yes, I believe he does.”
“And if Jesus knows how we feel, then so must God. ‘Cause they are like the same person only different.”
“It can feel that way.”
“I’m really sorry that Jesus had to suffer and die, but I know that Easter is coming and that he will be different, but o.k. Maybe that’s what heaven is like, maybe when we die, we are different, but o.k…. Hey Mom, you know that’s sort of like hope.”
“Yes, darlin’, it sort of is.”
“I can’t wait for Easter.”
“Neither can I.”