How to Come Back from the Dead
Supposing him to be the gardener, Mary said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” – John 20:15-16 (NRSV)
When I was in chemo a decade ago, I didn’t want to watch all my long red hair go down the drain, so I cut it all off the first week of treatment. My four-year-old put the disembodied ponytail in a blue bowl on top of her dresser. Every once in a while, she would take it out and run her fingers through it protectively. I think she had some idea that it could go back on my head someday. I watched her and cried through my two remaining eyelashes to think that there was a possibility she might grow up without a mother.
She didn’t know then that there is no putting hair back on a cancer patient. Some things, when they’re done, are done. There’s no unhearing certain words, words like, “I don’t love you anymore and I want a divorce,” or words like, “it’s cancer,” or words like, “there was nothing more we could do.”
How do we come back from these deathly doings? The reality is there is no coming back from the dead. But we can go on. And we will be changed, just as Jesus was changed in moving on from death, unrecognizable even to his best friend Mary.
When my head’s peach fuzz bloomed with the end of chemo, my kids and I went to a local park and brought the ponytail. We each took a hank of hair, waited for a breeze, and set it free, perhaps to line soft nests for baby birds. But it didn’t float. It kerplunked into the field in globby clumps.
And then a holy, hilarious thing happened. As we moved away, we noticed two little sisters playing nearby. One of them discovered a clump of hair, and screeching with delight, they gathered all they could find into massive fluffy piles.
My family and I just looked at each other and started laughing. None of us had the heart to say anything to the girls. There are some things you can only learn, should only learn, when it is time.
God, innocence is good. So is the wisdom from having passed through death. Raise us from all our traumas to be as radiant and joyful as Jesus the Gardener. Amen.
Rev. Molly Baskette is the lead pastor of First Church Berkeley UCC and the author of books about church renewal, parenting, spiritual growth and more. Sign up for her author newsletter or get information about her newest book at mollybaskette.com.