I’ve always felt a solemnity on this day. As if the busy world proceeded but with a black backdrop that was hard to pick up on, but there…if you were very still or quiet.
Today I felt that solemnity. But I also felt comfortable. I could wear black. I could hear mournful, minor key hymns at the Good Friday service at the church we attended. And I also felt empowered. As if something in the supernatural was spilling out into the air giving me strength to think about changing my bed sheet…today.
In the morning, I wash my new bedding while Audrey hunts in our living room for plastic Easter eggs I hide over and over again. Then she actually succumbs to a nap before we head out for the Good Friday service at 4:30. I put on a new black dress I got for the summer but with a long sleeve shirt underneath and black tights and shoes. I never wear dresses so Audrey tells me I look like Mary’s teacher from Mary Had a Little Lamb. A compliment? I put one bobby pin in my hair to hold it back and a memory comes- of me removing what seemed like hundreds of bobby pins from my stiff hair the night of our wedding. I’d had my hair put up with real orchids in the back and I guess accomplishing that required literally at least 40 bobby pins. One by one, I took them out while sitting on the bed at the W hotel next to Grand Central. I was absolutely exhausted and I remember though with each one, I knew my wedding day was over. I hated to get to that last one, and I kept them all in my toiletry bag for a long time after that to keep close to that day somehow.
We head out to the car. As I drive down the highway, I check my blind spot before changing lanes…and I think about how, even though we’ve got two eyes, and all of these mirrors, there is always still that blind spot- so blind that there could be a whole moving car in it but we wouldn’t be able to tell unless we turn our heads. If our physical body could miss something like that, I think, perhaps there is a spiritual blind spot as well. I must look around, I must stretch my neck out to look for it.
And then I think about another Good Friday service in 2007. Our Brooklyn church had a combined service with an African American church on 7th Avenue. You and I met right beforehand, but first I’d gone to Barnes and Noble and sat reading books about conception and getting pregnant. We were supposed to start trying for a baby on our upcoming trip to Paris, but my control freak self suddenly felt unprepared while I read those books- we hadn’t been eating well enough, doing enough exercise- I wasn’t even taking prenatal vitamins yet! What about the folic acid!!! By the time I met you, I was in tears. “I’m getting older…we’re not ready…” I was always trying to convince you we should have a baby but always trying to convince myself at the same time. I had this longing and this sense of urgency…but I was also incredibly scared. So, as we stood in the back of that old church, I remember tears were coming down my face- not for Christ- but for myself and my ticking clock. You squeezed my hand and promised me, you promised- we’d have that baby. “I’ll give you a baby,” you said. It’d be one miscarriage and another year and half until we had Audrey. But we did.
I pull into the church and get into the elevator with a Korean couple. Later as I’m going to drop Audrey off at the nursery a woman I’ve met there comes to introduce me to that same woman from the elevator. As I introduce myself, she gets that look on her face- the one I’ve seen quite a few times now which means that she knows. She knows the story and she knows you. Sure enough, she tells me softly, “I knew Dan- I went to St. John’s with him.” That was his church up in Boston. I enthusiastically say, “Oh you knew him?”
This is just another paradox of grief. I hate meeting people at a new place who have no idea who you were. But I don’t really love meeting people who do know either. I lose my breath for a second because of that look in their eyes. Then I introduce our daughter, “This is Audrey.”
The church service is also very solemn, and Audrey tells me she wants to come to the service. She surprises me by sitting on her chair like a five year old child. Perfectly quiet, listening, watching everyone. She wants to stay she tells me when I ask if she’s ready to go to sunday school. “No.”
I don’t sing the words or recite any of the congregational responses. I feel though, that just by me being there- standing there- it is an act of worship probably stronger and more genuine than many in that room. So I stand there. At one point the pastor says that even though this is a sad day, we know the end of the story. I don’t agree. Yes, we know about the resurrection, but now here we are left hanging thousands of years later- waiting for the end of the story- the true end…the fulfillment and fruition…the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
I also do not “feel” the songs or suggestions that are often used during this season saying, “That was me there nailing you to the cross…that was me yelling “crucify him.” I think, “No, that was not me. I was not there.” I don’t know if that’s an appropriate thing to say. I wonder for a moment if this means I’m unrepentant or don’t acknowledge my sin. I think I do…it’s those nasty parts of me I can’t change no matter how hard I try- that gaping hole that doesn’t get filled…the things that you saw Dan and said, “the curse stops here.”
I also think about you as I hear about what Jesus suffered. I know you didn’t suffer on a cosmic scale- and your cause of death was different. But there is so much loss…and you too were 33 years old. Is it blasphemous that I feel cheated because he came and died and did all that…and yet, you still also had to die? But I suppose I’m supposed to take comfort in the fact that his death means you didn’t die in the spirit- only in the flesh for now. If only I could believe that without feeling like I’m lying to myself all the time.
Someone sings really off key and I think how I’ve become such a music snob- what I always used to call you…
I think about how maybe you weren’t as worried and concerned about the future as I always was because you weren’t going to have one. Your focus and sense of urgency was on the present and “making it in music” before you got too old. Seems to me now that you were in a race to get there before…no wonder you weren’t thinking of retirement or mortgages.
We take communion. I eat the bread broken for me. Drink the wine.
During “What Wondrous Love Is This” I lose my composure for the first time. The repeating verse “sinking down, sinking down,” catches me off guard completely. You never know when it’s coming.
We are told to exit in silence as in a funeral. Usually there’s such an eruption of social interaction after church services where everyone’s been sitting, listening, meditating for a couple of hours, so this was really an obvious change. I enjoyed it and thought how powerful simple silence is as an act of worship. So hard for us to do, but maybe much more powerful than all of the carefully articulated words and quotations by intellectual giants.
I decide on the way home Audrey and I should go out to eat because eating alone together in our little kitchen is so draining for me sometimes. We go home and change before heading across the street to the Japanese place for some udon. I think it’s the first time I’ve gone to a real restaurant- on a Friday night certainly- alone with Audrey. I bring some coloring to amuse her in the hopes that I can actually eat. And while I’m there, I still look towards the glass door thinking I might see you coming in, raising your eyebrows just slightly to acknowledge me. I wonder when I will stop looking at doors like this everywhere I go.
I watch the sushi chefs at the bar and wish that I had tried sushi with you like you wanted. I tried it a few times but didn’t like the texture which you made fun of me for constantly. I wish now so badly you and I could sit there at that bar and I could eat whatever you wanted me to. That would be so fun, I think. Then while Audrey colors I allow myself to daydream about all of the simple, fun things I would do with you if we had the chance again. How beautiful and luxurious they seem…I tell myself I’d stay out later, try new things, be more adventurous. Enjoy whatever we were doing even if it was just eating a simple meal or standing in the cold waiting for a bus trying to keep warm together.
I fold my chopstick wrapper in an attempt to make the little stand that you would’ve constructed me by now to lay my chopsticks on. Mine is just folded in quarters and in half – yours was real origami I think. God, I miss how you would do that for me every time.
Because after the shock and processing and the missing comes… the loneliness. Not just lonely but lonely for you. I see quite a few friends but oh how I miss that connection with the one person who knows you better than anyone. That one person with whom you’ve laughed, cried, screamed, and loved. With whom a few sentences or a glance resonate with meaning and understanding. I had this, and now I do not.
We eat our noodles and we come home.
It is Good Friday. It is time to make up my bed.