In the Lectionary

April 18, Easter 3B (Luke 24:36b-48)

In case flesh and bone aren’t enough to convince the disciples, Jesus also asks for dinner.

The day my mother died I was performing the part of Juliet in my freshman English class. I was wearing a plaid shirt I’d taken from my grandfather, which I had ruined by washing with a piece of gum in the pocket. I kept wearing it anyway, probably because my mother wasn’t there to tell me not to, just as she had not been there to wash it properly in the first place, just as she was not there to see me as Juliet. Looking up from my book I saw a face in the oblong window of the classroom door and recognized my neighbor, Sammy. There was only one reason for Sammy to be there. He had been charged with taking me to the hospital if her condition worsened.

I’ve told that story countless times, recounting the mundane details—Shakespeare, the ruined shirt, the oblong window. These are my last clear memories for a very long time. After we came home from the hospital without her, my mind goes dark.

“Obliterative” is how Joan Didion describes the shocking nature of grief following her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking. And it’s true, as Didion says, that even the funeral was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be, cocooned as I was in the unreality of the loss. A friend later told me I made a joke at the grave site, but what kind of monster would do that? Who laughs beside their mother’s grave? Someone who believes the whole situation is absurd, that’s who.