During this Lenten season, I lost a dear friend unexpectedly. It was a Tuesday, and I planned to go to the grocery store. Instead, I was in the ER and then the ICU, waiting, hoping, and praying while trying to comfort her two daughters who are the same ages as my boys. I had so many joyful memories with these girls: picking blueberries on a hot summer day, watching them bob in the pool, laughing, and splashing with abandon, and chatting leisurely in their kitchen on carefree topics that meandered like the veining in the marble on their island. We went trick-or-treating with them, hunted Easter eggs, and watched fireworks on the Fourth of July.
The girls call me Mrs. Lara, and it always makes me feel fancy.
Their mom had the flu. I had the flu last year. So did my husband and children. None of us died. It seems like a gazillion people get the flu. It hardly seems like a reason to die.
Her death felt unfair, too soon, too fast, too cruel, and too unbelievable. Suddenly, those ashes that were spread thick on my forehead in the shape of a cross a little less than two weeks before on Ash Wednesday had new meaning. They no longer represented the inevitability of death, but the actuality of it. It was no longer a someday, but a very unexpected today. Losing my friend—this mother, this wife—went way beyond Lenten sacrifices. Praying over her stillness with the priest and deacon was a penance unlike any I had known. It was a darkness that went beyond black.
Despite this, I know the promise of eternal life that awaits the end of the Lenten season was fulfilled for her. She encountered Easter. She always radiated it anyway, with her easy smile and kind words, her spirit of adventure dancing in her twinkling pastel eyes. She loved everyone, reflecting her beauty in a way that helped others see theirs. She lived with color, softness, and a vibrancy that mimicked spring but endured all seasons.
The gift of Easter, beyond the white lilies and choruses of jubilant Alleluia’s, outside the pastel dresses and the wide-brimmed hats, sweeter than the chocolate in wicker baskets or the smiles of delight they invoke, is the resurrection of the Son of God, who suffered, died and was buried so that we could live perpetually. His rising takes the black ash of our sufferings, grief, and sorrow and wipes it clean, so that we no longer know death but are assured life.
The life of the resurrection can’t be taken by disease, accident, or the stupid flu. It’s not a life that takes, but a life that gives. It’s the life my friend basks in now. The one that comes at the end of the darkness. The one that is offered universally, but not universally sought. The one that comforts me when I endure sufferings of this world. She has that now, that redemption that transforms ash into exaltation, eternity, and love everlasting.
She has risen, and because she lived seeking and exuding light, I have risen higher for knowing her. And I rejoice this Easter for the one who makes everything possible, the one who gave his only Son, the one who blessed me with a friend so dear, that I learned that Easter isn’t just a Sunday marking the end of Lent, but a rebirth we encounter every day in the people we love.
In loving memory of my dear friend, Teresa Rose.
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