This morning for breakfast we ate Easter pancakes. Jess made Easter Egg ones, bunny pancakes, a random caterpillar pancake, and as a final joke for me an empty tomb pancake.
But as any good Christian dad would I tried to take the opportunity to talk to my kids about what the Christian community celebrates on Easter Sunday. First I asked them to see what they’d come up with and I was please to discover that after they’d ruled out Jesus’ birthday they settled on some blend between his death and his coming back to life. Close enough.
I proceeded to dialog with them about the idea of resurrection, about how Jesus died but he didn’t stay dead, and about how we don’t have to have any fear of death because it doesn’t have any kind of permanent hold on us. I’ve got to be honest with you when I say it came out quite eloquently. I did a pretty good job of taking the concepts and relating it to a four and a six year old. Somebody should have patted me on the back (apparently that ‘somebody’ is me)
Then India says:
But I don’t ever want you to die daddy!*
Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. At this stage in the story, resurrection kind of requires death doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a prerequisite at this point. And speaking to two children who (apparently) are very aware of the fact that their daddy could die young does not make resurrection quite the hopeful topic…not something necessarily to be celebrated at this point.
It broke my heart to be faced with the obvious reality that my children are already grieving my potential early death. It broke my heart to realize that I didn’t have a very good answer to her alluded question: why be excited for new life then when all I want is continued life now. Or put more simply: why hope when my daddy is dying?
I could write all sorts of answers to the question(s). I’ve got theological answers that ring true to me and to the Jesus narrative as I understand it. I’ve got answers that bring ME comfort. But for the child left behind, for the child who is scared of losing their daddy, for the child who is watching their dad’s body deteriorate…what’s the use of talking about resurrection? I mean, seriously, when it comes down to it India doesn’t really care that one day we’ll see each other again or that daddy has been promised a new body that won’t have cancer. She doesn’t. Why should she? In each and every scenario where resurrection is mentioned it requires her losing something she loves. It demands loss and pain in her life. Why is that good news to her?
My hope (I think) is that through my writing, through the life and hope exuded from my wife, and through my presence in my children’s life they will have a context cultivated within them that will allow them to one day understand why the Easter promise is worth hoping in. Part of my reasoning for blogging so openly and honestly about all this is that if I die from cancer I want my children to have a glimpse into what was going on within me. I want them to know it’s ok to be pissed at times, to find joy in small things at times, to have hope despite suffering, that its ok to cry, that its ok to be numb, and that Jesus is with us always. And I know that if I do die from this my wife will continue, as she has always been, to be an example to them of what it looks like to live a beautiful life even when life isn’t so beautiful. And I’m trying my damnedest to be as present and available for my children each and every moment so that there are no regrets if or when I pass. Are those three things enough to shape my children for understanding Easter?
But…lets be honest…this would all just be easier if my cancer would just go away. If my cancer would just go away then we could simply let Easter be about eggs and chocolate with no questions asked. Actually, if only Jess hadn’t made those gaudy and awkward empty tomb pancakes then all of this could have been averted! Lets just shoot for getting rid of the cancer so that this whole blog will be a moot point moving forward. Sound good?
* there was much more that followed this statement from both her, me, and Jones. I’d love to recount the whole thing but I don’t think I’d be able. India’s statement captures their thoughts on the matter.