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We have an “Easter/Resurrection Manger” set if you will, it consists of rocks, a cross, a clay tomb and an action figure Jesus. (That’s correct, Amazon sells action-figure Jesus dolls and theologically I don’t know how I feel about it). That being said, every year, the week of Easter, we carefully unwrap the clay dried tomb we hand-molded a few years back, the twine wrapped sticks we created into a cross, and the plastic, Gumby-like Jesus figure we purchased. My kids are surprisingly always very excited and intrigued by this small tradition around Easter. My two oldest played with the rocks and put Jesus in and out of the tomb in imaginative conversation. Tonight, I listened to my 5-year-old daughter, Selah tells me how sad Jesus is going to be in the dark tomb alone again this year. I try to remind her that He will be out on Sunday and defeat death with His Resurrection. She isn’t comforted by this thought, she continues to tell me she feels afraid that Jesus will be alone in the dark. 

I am reminded of my best work as a therapist which is not to rationalize the other’s perspective but rather to be with them in their fears.

Every time I pass our tomb scene tucked in our stairwell, I think about her words. I know the agony of death and the crucifixion is more than she can understand but as a mental health therapist, I am aware of the different type of agony that comes in loneliness and darkness. The mystery of Christ still beckons me to wonder whether I completely understand why Holy Saturday is so important of a day. A whole day on the church calendar devoted to waiting in hope and hopelessness. 

This year, due to COVID-19, we will not be attending a Good Friday service, instead, we will have our own. We will turn off all the lights and stop using electricity and technology at 3 pm to signify when the sky went dark. We will sing acapello the haunting words, 

“Where you there when they crucified my Lord?

Where you there when they nailed Him to a tree? 

Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. 

Where you there when they crucified my Lord?

The kids will take Jesus off the cross and place him in the tomb and put the stone in front of our clay tomb. This is Selah’s most hated part, her imagination knows no greater fear than being left alone in the dark tomb. I ask her what would be a kind act on Jesus’ behalf. “We need to leave a nightlight on for him and sing to him.” So we precede to do both, sing the rest of the song and light a candle and leave it glowing near the Easter scene. 

“Where you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Where you there when they laid Him in the tomb? 

Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. 

Where you there when they laid Him in the tomb?” 

No, I wasn’t there. I have read The Journal of American Medicine Association confirmed the death of Christ (JAMA 1986;255:1455-1463). I also know that women are the first ones to account for Jesus’ tomb being empty and His resurrection before the 500 witnesses. Women weren’t thought to be credible witnesses by Jewish customs, so why did God have a woman at His Son’s tomb? I wasn’t there but I think about it. Especially, on Easter weekend, I think about more than how it must have been to be crucified, I think about what it was to lay in a dark tomb alone. Women’s bodies know that being left alone is hard, and our knowledge leads us to join and be with and bear witness. My experiences with graves are few but haunting. I laid my firstborn’s body in a deeply dug hole in the ground. I buried him with the shirt that I was wearing when they placed him in my arms at the hospital, I wanted him to feel my warmth and remember my smell while his body lay alone in his tomb. I placed flowers and dirt on top of his small casket until he was covered by a heavy blanket of ground and longing grief. It causes me to tremble to even speak of the 8-year-old memory. I was there the next morning at the cemetery grounds, kneeling on the dew-covered grass near his grave. Just in case God wanted to bring him back to life, just in case he felt any sense of abandonment in his flesh, I wanted to be there. 

I imagine Mary was no different. The distress of your love left buried alone in the ground. I would have been nowhere else but near his body. So, when the Bible says, Mary was at the tomb Sunday morning, I believe it because I was at my own boy’s grave the very next morning, and the next, and the next. When my daughter says she is worried about Jesus being afraid in the dark tomb alone, I believe her fear – I believe her female body. More than ever I have begun to notice the times’ women were mentioned in the Bible and most of them are in stories of accompaniment with life-giving or burying. Women know the ways of birthing life and birthing death. So, this Good Friday and Holy Saturday, I am not at all surprised by my daughter’s knowledge to accompany Jesus during His time in the tomb. I will teach her the ways of a woman who is learning the craft of accompaniment and birthing death as she reminds me that it matters to even Jesus to not be left alone. 

“Where you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Where you there when the stone was rolled away? 

Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. 

Where you there when the stone was rolled away?”