Soon I’ll accompany my dad on a trip back to where he grew up in New York City. He is 73 and unsure how much longer he will be able to fly, so it’s now or never. We will visit places I’ve never seen: the house he grew up in, the church where he was baptized and confirmed, and his ancestors’ graves. We will also eat a lot of pizza and cheesecake.
My last name isn’t common, my dad is an only child, and my grandparents were cremated and their ashes scattered, so I’ve never seen my last name on a gravestone. It’s going to be weird. Someday in the not too distant future, I’ll see it on my dad’s grave. That will be weirder. And then someday, hopefully not for a while, my descendants will see it on mine.
Good Friday is coming. It’s coming for you, it’s coming for me, it’s coming for all of us. Cheesecake and pizza are a welcome distraction, but Good Friday casts a long shadow, and there is not a thing we can do to stop it.
Lately I’ve been wondering why God didn’t choose to stop it. Why do people die? Why didn’t Jesus make it so we don’t die? Why bother with death and resurrection when we could all just go straight to eternal life? It sure would save a lot of heartache.
I’m going to ask God about that someday. I’m going to ask God about a lot of things. I’m going to ask why my father-in-law died so young, about the Holocaust, 9/11, Columbine. I’ve got a long list of questions, but I’m not worried about the length. After all, we’ll have plenty of time. I’ll have all of eternity to ask God those big questions and to eat pizza and cheesecake with my dad, my grandparents and all those ancestors I’ve never met. In the life to come, we’re going to have all the time we could ever need.
Maybe then I will look back on all of these Good Fridays and realize that they weren’t so bad. It’s hard to imagine, but then again, so is eternal life. So is Easter. All of these things are so hard to imagine, and on a bad day they seem paltry compared to the looming certainty of Good Friday. But on a good day, they give me hope. They help me remember that life overcomes death and God’s love overcomes all.
When Good Friday seems too much, I remind myself that Easter is coming, too, and though the power of death looms large, that’s all it does. It looms and it casts a shadow, but only for a time. Easter is coming. The sun will rise, the shadows will be gone and there will be life for all.