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Sunday, April 5, 2015

From Death to Life

Between sunset on Saturday and sunrise on Sunday I walked a journey of commemorating my father's death by scattering his ashes and celebrating the hope of eternal life through our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. The scattering at sunset ended up being just perfect. It was a gorgeous, slightly windy evening as Doug, my cousin, his wife and I made our way to the desert hills near the golf course where my mom's ashes had been scattered just a little over a year ago. As the bright sun made its way behind the mountains, the dusk of the day invited us to remember my dad. We stood in a circle and shared our memories, all containing a mention of Ted's humor and honesty. We spoke of the impact that he had made on us certainly, but also upon so many others. Doug cited the traditional words of interment, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from the earth you have come, to the earth you shall return. Blessed be the name of the Lord." After a short prayer, we all proceeded to make our way down the hillside, ashes in hand, scattering as we went.
It was a bit windy which is some ways contributed to the moment in a positive manner. I loved being surrounded by the craggy, wind-blown, hearty desert landscape. I could almost imagine that the hillsides surrounding Jerusalem looked similar on the first Easter weekend. 
It wasn't as hard to do this scattering as it had been with my mom. Perhaps because I knew what to expect and perhaps because dad was rather unconcerned what we would eventually do with his remains. I suppose too there was a certain beauty in knowing that he and my mom's remains are now intermixed in the earth. We all laughed that the slight breeze was Ted getting the last laugh as we struggled to not cover one another with his remains. As it was, I emerged coated in them and even that, was just fine with me.
I was a bit relieved when it was over and satisfied with how it had gone. It's not easy to anticipate these moments of holding the ashes of a loved one and scattering them back to the earth. And yet, on the eve of Easter, and the one year anniversary of my father's passing, it seemed wildly appropriate. I mentioned that with the one year anniversary of dad's death passing, perhaps my grief would ebb a bit. I'm not sure I'll even stop missing him, but maybe the searing quality of his death won't hurt so much in the coming year.
The last stop was beside my mom's memorial tree which is now there for them both. I scattered a few more ashes at the base as I had done with mom's. I'm very thankful that we are now living close to my cousin Mike and his wife Susan. Our parents were so close to one another having lived near one another for over 25 years. It is rather remarkable and perhaps not all that surprising that we have lost all four of them over the past 2 years. It's great to carry on their legacy of love, friendship, and fun with one another.

Just a few hours later we arose at 5.30 and made our way, in the dark, out to the community Easter sunrise service held on the lawn of our country club. It was chilly and the moon was shining brightly in the sky. We drove up in our golf cart and actually sat in the cart for the entire service. The clergy association from Desert Hot Springs puts this service together every year and it was really a neat experience. It was incredibly special watching the sun rise as we sung about Christ's rising from the dead. We didn't sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today so I'll have to figure out a way to sing my own rendition before the day is done, but the music was well done and the message was meaningful. While far from the tradition of Easter that we shared at Immanuel, it felt good to gather with this community, our community, and join the chorus of Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! We were thankful that our club opens up for this tradition and it was pretty special to sit in our golf cart, surrounded by others, some also in golf carts, others in chairs, participating in this tradition. 
I thought about the words in John 20, where it says early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary approached the tomb. We arrived for this service, while it was still dark and then enjoyed the light of Christ dawning as the day dawned all around us. The hill where my parents ashes are scattered is near this spot and it was comforting and satisfying thinking about their own resurrection from the grave and the freedom and joy they are experiencing in their eternal resting spot.

As the day got brighter and brighter, the sun was hitting the mountains in a spectacular fashion. It just kept getting more and more beautiful. 

The fresh flower garden reminded me of the hundreds of flowers I would buy for Immanuel's Easter morning. I wonder what the altar looked like today. I will continue to miss being part of that beautiful worshipping community as well, but also feel hopeful about our still unknown future and the way in which that community will continue to be the people of God together. Our hearts are forever knit together through the joy of the resurrected Christ.

It's been a hard and good Easter weekend. I'm thankful for the range of emotions I've experienced from Maundy Thursday-Easter Sunday. I missed my Immanuel family a lot, but enjoyed being with my California family and loved connecting with our Mission Lakes community this morning. 

From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord, I lift your name on high. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia and Thanks be to God.