In John’s rendition of the Resurrection story today, Mary Magdalene stands weeping outside the tomb. An angel in white asks why she is weeping. She has lost her Lord twice–once in death by crucifixion and now his body is seemingly stolen. Then Jesus appears and asks her why she is weeping. Thinking he is the gardener, she asks if he can tell her where Jesus has been moved. He calls her by name and she recognizes him. He tells her not to cling to him because he has not yet ascended.
Ah, this story of grief and joy! Do you know it? Many of us experience similar tales though it is usually through some dream where our loved one appears or some symbol/sign in nature. Letting go is one of the hardest tasks we endure in life–of our identities, our ideals, our dreams, our hopes, and our beloveds. In Jesus Calling last week, Sarah Young writes This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. Yes, I thought, this rings true for me. I have let go of some of these and much more is yet to come.
At the Easter Vigil reception the other night, I had two conversations back-to-back just prior to heading home before midnight. Both were with people I had known for a long time. The first caught up on my health and told me I was looking good. I became a little teary in our exchange. Despite telling her I was fading, she said she looked forward to seeing me at the Vigil next year because it would not be the same without me. The next woman was a dear friend’s sister. She had not known I was sick and I had been meaning to find the right time to tell her. Oddly enough, we laughed so much as she learned the news. Her sister had died of a rare form of cancer too. She teased me about trying to be special just like her sister. The difference in the reactions was priceless. No clinging here, just acceptance.
Why do some of us weep at the news of an impending death while others are joyful? There is no easy answer. I am glad that I left the Vigil though after talking with my friend who made me laugh. Letting go makes us weep but if there is one lesson I have learned in these past three years it is that I am a stronger person who knows better what I can endure. I have less patience for my whining about the unimportant parts of life. I have learned that joy is different than being happy. I am not happy that I am dying. I am not happy that my life changes every few months as more of who I am is stripped away. I am full of joy though at my core, even when I find myself weeping for what was. I am ready to go. I am at peace with how I have chosen to live these past three years. The joy comes from knowing I am ascending to my heavenly home.
What is the most challenging thing you have had to let go of?
Why do you weep in the letting go?
Life is filled with choices. Creator, help me to chose joy over misery, love over hate, engagement over withdrawal. Help me not to cling to earthly attachments but to keep my eyes on you. Ame.