In the Lectionary

April 4, Easter Day B (Mark 16:1-8)

It’s Easter. Step into the future.

I never met my maternal grandmother, Elsa Huesemann Schumacher. She collapsed over a bowl of soup at her kitchen table in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 14, 1936, and died on the spot at age 40. Elsa’s husband, a Lutheran pastor, struggled to get beyond the crippling grief that her death triggered in him. His behavior ended up significantly impacting the childhood of my mother, eight years old at the time, who became unavoidably entangled in her father’s sorrow.

Every Sunday afternoon for years, my mother’s father would make her—that was her verb—accompany him to Cave Hill Cemetery to visit the grave. He would don his black overcoat and fedora and, with his young daughter in tow, go to pay respect. This weekly ritual cast such a pall over my mother’s young life that it essentially blocked every other memory of her childhood. She never spoke about another feature of her upbringing. Since her own death 40 years ago, my siblings and I have been left to guess at what else constituted childhood for her.

Resurrection may have been the last thing on my grandfather’s mind as he trudged to the cemetery each week. I sometimes wonder what shape his Easter preaching must have taken during those sorrow-filled years. Something in me wishes that a gravedigger would have walked up to him one Sunday at Cave Hill, interrupted his mourning, and said straight to his face, You know, you really need to go and do something else with your Sundays. Good years are still ahead of you and your daughter. Go and make something of your life that’s not going to happen here. I’ll take care of the grave.