Hannah’s Funeral

It’s taking too long. That’s how I know my world is crumbling. The midwife can’t find what she’s looking for. She keeps trying, but every new effort is the ringing of steeple bells tolling a funeral. Not a formal, prepared, eulogised, dressed-in-black funeral. No, this is an impromptu affair, with no time to think, and no black shoes to look at as I stare at the floor. But I can’t just stare at the floor, people are talking to me. I have to concentrate to keep looking at them. I have to focus. It’s not their fault. They’re trying to help. I need to be polite and listen. What about my wife? She must be feeling the same as me. No, she must be feeling worse. After all, Hannah is still inside her. Hannah who we weren’t even sure was a girl (but we knew). Hannah who was a world of new life and dreams. Hannah who we have the little dress waiting for at home in a room right across the hall so we can hear her if she cries…

Now my wife is crying. She is beside me, looking at the floor. She’s not wearing black shoes, either. I don’t think she’s even trying to listen to those nice people who never, ever stop talking about helpful things I can’t hear. I just want to go somewhere where no people are talking so I can look at the floor and let the whole world be as black as it should be. How can the sun not be ashamed? Why do people in the waiting room keep chatting and laughing as if the whole world hadn’t just fallen to pieces? Turn off the lights. Let all creation mourn.

The precious body is too small to bury. There will be no prepared funeral. Only this horrid, sunlit, incessant chatter and brown shoes. But the dress… The little dress is still in the room across the hall at home, waiting for the precious body that is too small to bury. If my wife sees it, she will cry. I have to put it away before that happens. I have to put it somewhere deep in a wardrobe, somewhere dark where there is no sunlight and all the clothes look as black as they should be. This is the funeral. The burial of my dreams. The flowery dress is the casket, as empty as my heart. The wardrobe is the grave, with darkened coats standing in for mourners. And when the door is closed, my world is forever changed.

And now I begin to understand. I understand why the sky turned black and the earth shook in heaving grief as you breathed one last ragged breath from your place on the cross. Except it wasn’t your place. You were innocent. Creation was right to mourn it, as I mourned for Hannah. The world is broken by sin, and death is the result. I know that. But it wasn’t Hannah’s sin, so why should it be her death? Neither was it your sin, so why should it be your death? She didn’t have a choice, but you gave up your life willingly. You did it because you knew that only your wrongful death could break the power of our sin once and for all, and begin to undo the horrible result of our sin – making death itself begin to work backwards for those who belong to you. So you died our death. And when you walked out of the grave, the world was forever changed.

Now I understand why Easter is the birthday of hope for humanity. Hope for precious bodies that are too small to bury. Hope for broken fathers and mothers. Hope for liars and thieves and sinners. Hope for good people who can never be good enough. The steeple bells are tolling again, but not a funeral: a resurrection!

Hope is alive because you are.

 

this article describes events that happened 13 years ago, and was originally published in 4you magazine

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