My friend Jill died in my dream last night. It happens fairly periodically actually. See, in real life, it’s been 520 days since she went to be with Jesus.
Some days, it feels like she left years ago because there are so many big and little things that she’s missed. She died before the pandemic, and I often wonder what her commentary would be about a world that hoards toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
But other days? I feel like it just happened — like I just got the text that she died as the sun was setting over the Atlantic.
Last night’s dream was so clear I could tell you every detail, but the storyline was this: We were together and things were fine and then she left again. We stood there — in a cemetery, no less — and we talked for a while and then, we both knew she had to go. I held on to her for the time I could, but then, she died. We had a memorial service for her again, and I went back to the world without her.
You don’t lose someone and then move on with the healing in a linear way. Rather, it resurfaces over and over, and you have to face it time and time again. The grief has a tendency to show up when she would have — a birthday or holiday or when a Facebook memory pops up in my newsfeed. Other times, it’s more nuanced. I feel her absence when I need advice about ministry or when I can’t find a bra that actually fits. She always knew things I just didn’t.
I opened my eyes this morning and as a new wave of sadness rolled over me, I rolled out of bed and tried to shake the recent death I’d witnessed while I slept. And then, I remembered Mary in the garden, looking for Jesus.
She stands there in John 20:11 in the early morning hours. There’s still dew on the ground, and the air smells like dirt. She was in the early days of loss, so I imagine she’s sleep-deprived and puffy-eyed, no appetite and restlessly moving around like a ghost.
When Jesus approaches her, she doesn’t seem to understand it’s Him. His presence is so unexpected that she does not consider He’d be the person she’d bump into. But when He said her name, she looked up and reached out to embrace Him.
Her instinct was to pull Him close, perhaps to keep Him there — not unlike me in my dream last night, clinging to Jill, feeling her ribs pressed against mine.
That human ache to hold on is what I can’t get out of my head.
Jesus tells Mary that she needs to go tell the others that He is alive. So she slowly pulls away, probably speechless. She stumbles back and turns and runs as fast as her shaking legs will take her, making her way back to the others with bags under their eyes and grief in their hearts. And then, she says these words in verse 18: “I have seen the Lord.”
I wish with everything in me that I could tell you that I really saw Jill, that she was really there and we were really together. But the truth is, I didn’t, and we weren’t. My mind saw her and held her, but when I woke up with the cool breeze coming in along with early morning light, I was alone.
So I go back to John 20, and I read this story over and over again, remembering these things: One day, I’ll see Jill again. I don’t know what it’ll be like or if we’ll even care about each other in light of the glory of God. But I like to believe that we will stand there and truly embrace, feeling the ribs of our resurrected bodies press together with lungs that are breathing and hearts that are beating. And perhaps her first words to me will be, “I have seen the Lord.”Leave a Comment