Life and death

Any long journey will likely be interrupted by life events. My silence in this space of late has been prompted in part by a family crisis: the death last week of my father. Here's a piece I wrote Sunday on Facebook:

My father died April 14, 2017, at 104 years old. His life was a long book, but the final chapter was blessedly short.

That was Good Friday, and today is Easter Sunday, when thoughts turn to death and resurrection.

Dad was a church-going man. He and Mom met in church and they were there every Sunday, singing in the choir. They used to joke that he had no choice, since he sang tenor and church-going tenors were so hard to find. They brought their five children to church with them every Sunday, until we were old enough to decide on our own.

We sang songs of resurrection every Easter – in three services, including sunrise - and they ring in my head today. After Mom died four years ago, Dad said he didn’t really believe in life after death, at least not a heaven where he and his dear wife Allie would be reunited. But I think resurrection and life after death need not be taken so literally.

I find myself in the Green Mountains of Vermont this Easter Sunday. Snow is still hiding in the shadows, but crocuses are up and it’s sunny and warm and gorgeous. I listen to the Easter hymns and see the woods being reborn. It’s Spring, and all that seemed dead a month ago is alive again.

I think of Dad and know it was the quality of his life that matters, not the quantity of his years – and the quality of man he was matters most of all. I think the good that we do stays in the world long after we’re gone. Dad lives in my heart, but also in my life – and in the lives of all his children, grandchildren and countless people he touched with warmth and kindness. That's life after death.

Amid the joy of resurrection, the hymn asks “Where, O Death, is now thy sting?” Easter applies the balm. Death has been redeemed by new life. He lives. We are one. Hallelujah!

- Rick Holmes

April 16, 2017

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