We had a bit of a tragedy at our home this week. When a say a “bit” I mean a very small bit. I was out the door heading to the Deacons meeting when my oldest son Clark stopped me and gave me the news that “catfish” was dead. Catfish is the fairly unoriginal name of the fish that looked like a catfish swimming in our aquarium. The fish, of course, was no longer swimming, but was – how can I put this? – belly-up dead. I assured my eldest that proper arrangements would be made but in the meantime he had to take care of the problem. While our deacon body is an empathetic gathering, I doubt the death of one of our aquarium fish would garner a prayer request let alone a visitation accompanied by the requisite casserole.
When I returned that night Amy informed me that a proper funeral was held, complete with personal remarks and reflections and music. It seems that my wife sung “I’ll Flush Away” to the tune of “I’ll Fly Away” while Clark accompanied her on the mandolin. I could not make stuff like this up in our house. Aaron was no where to be seen (can you blame him?) He was either too grief-stricken, or more probably plotting a way to poison the other fish.
In spite of the pall of death hovering in our household (more specifically in our septic tank; Catfish was buried with honors down the toilet) our part of the world is surrounded by life. Spring peepers are croaking during the night and birds are nesting and singing each morning. The earth is shimmering with life as if awakening from a long winter’s sleep. Just last night I was leaning down inspecting the first green shoots of a hibiscus I planted last year and without thinking I said out loud, “welcome back!” The greening of the trees and lawn, the budding of perennials and the promise of spring flowers is a wonderful testimony of God’s creative work. It is no wonder that we celebrate the Easter season during spring.
Yes, death will always be among us. Disappointments and grief are still very much a part of our life, springtime or not. Yet there is the abiding hope we witness each year that gives me strength and courage.
Walter Brueggemann writes in his lovely book of prayers:
- salve wounds,
Easter us in joy and strength.
Be our God, be your true self, lord of life.
massively turn our life toward your life
and away form our anti-neighbor, anti-self deathliness.
Hear our thankful, grateful, unashamed Hallelujah! Amen. (Awed to Heaven, p. 166)
Peace and joy and newness be yours,