Terrible and Beautiful

We have just come off a restful four-day weekend. Good Friday and Easter are both national holidays here in Canada, and we enjoyed the days of downtime and the special worship services. With that behind us, we are in a stretch that leads to the Victoria Day weekend which comes at the end of May and marks the unofficial beginning to summer. For now, though, spring is well underway. Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, the sun is a little warmer, the nights a little shorter. There is hope in the air.

Yet there is also discouragement, for Ontario has once again been placed under a form of lockdown-light in which all businesses and organizations have been told to operate at reduced capacities, in which restaurants are closed except for takeout, and so on. The medical establishment and teacher’s unions (among other organizations) are exerting intense pressure on the government to deepen the lockdowns into a full stay-at-home order. The delayed week-long spring break is coming up next week and there is a lot of conjecture that schools will not open on the far side of it. To be honest, it’s easier to imagine tighter restrictions than looser restrictions in the days ahead. But we’ve done this all before and will get through it again, if necessary. (Update: It looks like we are headed into a month-long stay-at-home order.)

My family found Easter weekend very emotional. The hope we have in Nick’s death is closely tied to Good Friday and Easter, so I suppose the extended focus on Christ’s death and resurrection stirred up our hope, but also our sorrow alongside it. Having never faced grief like this, I find myself surprised at how sharp it can still feel even after five months. In fact, in some ways it seems to hurt more now than it did two or three months ago. I find that I really miss Nick in a deepening way—I miss loving him and being loved by him. I think it’s the first of these that I miss the most. For almost 21 years there was always something I could do to express love to him, but now he is beyond any good I can do him, any actions that would bless him. There’s no point even praying for him, since there is nothing he needs, no temptation he has to endure, no good thing God has withheld from him. Twenty-one years of being an attentive and affectionate father ended so suddenly. I still haven’t adjusted to it.

I decided to get up early on Easter and go to the cemetery for sunrise. The air was cold, the ground was white with frost, and there was not another living soul in sight. I brought a little folding chair which I set up at the foot of Nick’s grave. I also brought headphones which I set to play Handel’s “Messiah,” beginning with the third part, the second scene, the 47th movement—right where the bass soloist sings, “Behold, I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” I sat, I listened, I prayed, I wept, and I watched as the sun rose slowly over the horizon. It was terrible and beautiful all at once, and I suspect it may become a new tradition for me.

Tim Challies

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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