Today is Good Friday. It is also the one year anniversary of Neil's death. It marks the day a year ago when I heard that Neil was in an accident, and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed, and I felt the assurance from God that everything would be alright. I thought for sure that whatever had happened, he would get better.
But God's assurances are not our assurances.
Because Neil's death was so sudden and stupid and random it was like I had to change the whole way my brain worked to fit it in. Obviously people die all the time, in car accidents and from cancer and from freak things like amniotic fluid embolisms. But I just don't want to believe it - it's one stupid puzzle piece that just does not want to fit. So I think maybe I should hide it or throw it into the trash because its presence means that I might have been putting the whole rest of the puzzle together wrong.
We read it in church today and this time of year every year. Men die. Sons die. Prophets die. It's true but also random and stupid and hard to make fit. So instead we say: Look over here! Look at this bunny!
Rascal killed a baby bunny once. He hardly touched it and all of a sudden it was dead. The poor little thing looked so sweet and perfect and beautiful and completely and stupidly un-alive. As did the mouse who died this week in our kitchen. We try our best to catch the mice humanely, but this one we didn't even trap - it was one of two that got stuck in the recycling bin overnight. Harvey and I released one mouse who'd gotten stuck in the bin plus two we'd caught in the traps, but the other little one who'd fallen into the recycling looked very sick when we transfered her to the big cage, and she failed to make a rallying recovery when we moved her to a warm little hospice box next to the stove. By bedtime she had stopped breathing, and even as I was relieved that she looked so peaceful I was almost inconsolable that something so sweet and small and perfect just died because of my stupid recycling.
I know that mice die, that indeed these ones only lived because of my kitchen scraps, and when they're pooping disease all over my silverware every morning it's a war of them versus me. But still, it's my fault. My kitchen. My recycling bin. My big wide sphere of influence that I can't control that includes death.
And when I reflect, I know that the other three mice who we drove 20 minutes into Carlisle to release might not even have it any better. They may not have found warm places to bed down for the night. They might have gotten eaten by hawks just moments after I set them down. Even driving there yesterday I was thinking: does it really matter? Does it really make a difference? Does this little outing for the sake of my conscience do anything really? anything at all?
What Jesus did on Good Friday seemed pretty trivial at the time too. That he died on a cross instead of while leading a violent insurrection... Seriously dude, what the difference between a dead messiah and a dead messiah? What's the difference between a mouse dying in the woods and a mouse dying in our kitchen. Does it really make any difference at all?
Is there something in the way that Harvey says, "Mouse fee inna woods?" Something that means something? Something that makes me tear up because "free" means something somehow important?
One stupid death on a cross among other stupid deaths on crosses, it shouldn't have made a difference or changed anything, but somehow it did; somehow it changed our hearts and through some miraculous mystery set them free. Even though death surrounds us, even though we all taste it someday and smell it in our nostrils long before that, still there is something in this Friday that we call it Good, something about the assurance of freedom that is important. That in death and before death and after death there is a real freedom, that is a real thing that means something.
Neil, you knew that better than me.