Pain of losing dad is still there


It is difficult to believe that both the Christmas and Easter holidays have already come and gone. In the church year, we are now post-Easter people, looking at life through the eyes of knowing that the Resurrection of Jesus transforms everything! But do we really believe this? Do we really confess that Jesus the Christ (Anointed One) is our Lord and Savior like Peter did and the other disciples that saw him outside of the empty tomb? Do we believe that death no longer has the final say?

Sometimes it is challenging to live in the both/and ness of losing a loved one and then shouting, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen,” immediately following. I know this feeling all too well.

When my dad died on Dec. 30, 2022, my entire world was rocked. I thought if anyone could escape death, it would be the big, strong man who carried sheetrock on his back working construction for a living. He was the backbone of our family. The oldest son of four to my grandparents, he had all of the classic characteristics of a first born child. He was a goal-setting leader who always had a plan, as well as a backup plan to the plan and a backup plan to the backup plan. He was also a good communicator and a little on the perfectionist side, but I digress. We ended up having his funeral service on Jan. 5, 2023 with his burial to follow for immediate family only to follow on Jan. 6, which is always Epiphany (the 12 days after Christmas). Making sure that every jot and tittle was in place, I stayed to watch as they closed the stone vault and a crane lowered it into the freshly dug earth below. I have never cried so hard in my life. The finality of it all seemed so, well, final.

I didn’t celebrate any holidays for a while after that. A Hindu friend of mine said that that is what they did in their religious tradition, so I followed suit. I did eat chocolate on Valentine’s Day, only at the urging of my husband, who brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a heart-shaped box of candy. I did not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, even though I am quite a bit Irish. Then there was Easter.

At that time, I was not serving in a congregation, as I was trying to wrap up my Doctor of Ministry. Easter Sunday was approaching and I had planned nothing, no worship, no after church family dinner, nothing. I told my husband and children that I was deliberately not going to celebrate Easter. How could I when I had watched strangers putting my father into the winter ground only a few short months prior. I encouraged my family to attend worship and even go to lunch with other family and friends, but I chose to stay in bed, pulling the covers over my head. At least for that Easter.

Another year of regular days and holidays has gone by. The pain is still there. I would be lying if I said it is starting to dissipate. There is never really closure and certainly time does not heal all wounds. But my perspective is a bit different now. Strangely, some things that seem so contrary, so opposite, so distinctly different such as light and darkness, hot and cold, war and peace, love and hate, even life and death are starting to hang in the same space together.

I now appreciate better being able to hold the ugly parts of the world with the most beautiful attributes of humankind together. It can all hang in the same closet. Maybe you would not wear certain items together at the same time, but the purple dress, the red scarf and the brown shoes can all reside together. Perhaps this is what being post-Easter people is all about.

I can miss my dad, grieve over the loss of an amazing, but definitely not perfect person, and I can now also say “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!” It doesn’t mean that life and death doesn’t get messy or blurred or frustrating or overwhelming at times, yet I believe my God can hold it all. The good news for me is that even in my lack of understanding, God has got this, all this!

So, I hope this next month, as you reflect on what it means to be a post-Easter person, you will be able to live in the both/and ness of the good news found in the Gospel of the New Testament. May God grant you continued faith, hope, and love — the greatest of these — love.

Rev. Jennifer Eastman Hinkle is transitional pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Delaware.

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