This has been a Holy Week to remember—or, some might say, to forget. With COVID-19 flying around the globe, most of us have “been sent home until further notice,” and the most holy week on the church calendar has been forced into cyber space. I began the week Facebook chatting with my church family before our Palm Sunday service started. On Maundy Thursday night, we had a Brady Bunch prayer meeting on Zoom, and in a couple hours, I’ll tune back in to the live stream on Facebook for our Good Friday service. On Easter Sunday morning, “Christ is risen!” and “He is risen indeed!” will pepper the feeds of our live chat as we wait for the biggest party of the year to begin. Virtually.
When the Lenten season began so many weeks ago, “COVID-19” was not even in most of our vocabularies. The coronavirus, if we’d even heard of it, was something happening on the other side of the world—it’s like the flu, right? My own little church family gathered on Ash Wednesday for the beginning of a favorite tradition—Lenten soup suppers and a short service. The season of reflection and repentance began as it always has.
Well, not exactly—at least, not in our house. Ash Wednesday was my dad’s second full day in hospice care. It was the beginning of the end—a somber note to start an already somber season. Given his frail health, we anticipated a funeral sooner rather than later. As the out-of-towner who couldn’t help my siblings with the daily realities facing our parents, I got busy sorting and scanning pictures, compiling memory boards, and creating a memorial video. Within a couple weeks, I was ready to go as soon as the phone rang.
But it didn’t. Never one to give up, my dad lingered on. Then last Friday word came that he had taken a turn. His pulse was high, his oxygen low, and he wouldn’t eat. Morphine and oxygen kept him sleeping in peace through the weekend. The call came on Monday morning. He had slipped away hours earlier, just missing his first opportunity to sing “Hosanna!” in the highest on Palm Sunday.
On Palm Sunday afternoon, a dear friend had sent me the link to a new song because it made her think of me and my dad. I listened to it then and have come back to it a dozen or more times since. The rock-a-bye melody and sweet lyrics have soothed my heart as I’ve let my dad go, as I’ve let myself see him in a far safer and better place.
I’ve thought a lot this week about my dad being there—not in the abstract, as I’ve comfortably done for years, but in the reality that is the human soul and the heavenly realms. A mere mortal, my dad is in the presence of the divine eternal. My dad, the one whose face I see in my own mirror, is there. What must that be like? His body is still here—but he is there. How does that work?!
Really, I have no idea. I just know that Paul’s words are true: because of Resurrection Sunday and my dad’s faith in Jesus, his absence from his body means he’s present with the Lord (which, Paul happily adds, is far better!). In ways that make no earthly sense to me, my dad is with Jesus. He is in the very presence of God, forever.
It has been a holy week to remember, indeed.