I was seven years old when my Uncle Terry, my mother’s only brother, was ripped from our lives. His death, a freak accident, was so unexpected that I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Terry was 33 years old, only five years younger than I am now. How wise, and mature – and tall – he seemed at the time. How ancient I thought my mother was, and yet when I do the math, I realize that she was only in her twenties.
I remember the night we got the news of Terry’s death. When the phone rang, my mother was washing my younger siblings’ hair, making shampoo hair-dos and getting ready to tuck us all in for the night. My father, in seminary, and working at least two jobs, was not home yet, so mom left me to watch Joshua and Jemimah while she went to answer the phone. I remember how the bathroom door was propped open just enough for her to see us from where the phone hung on the wall. I remember how she turned away from us when the words begin to register. I remember how she leaned into the wall for support, head bent, shoulders hunched, as she called my dad to tell him that her only brother had died.
I only have a few memories from the week surrounding Terry’s death and funeral. I recall that when I gave a note to my second grade teacher explaining why I would be out of town, my teacher asked me if my uncle was okay. Always one to over-think things and never one to want to disappoint adults, I slowly nodded my head yes. After all, I reasoned to myself, Uncle Terry was in heaven now, so technically he was okay . . . right?
At the funeral home, I was both afraid and curious to view his body. Afraid because I was a child and a dead body seemed about the most awful thing I could look at. I knew he would still look like my uncle but the fact that he would not wake up, tickle me, and call me Small, was unfathomable. I didn’t want to see him that way, frozen in sleep, his body there, but not his spirit, his voice, his smile.
Back at my grandmother’s house, after all of the services were over, after all the well-meaning casseroles had been covered and put away, after everyone else had gone home, the front door finally closed and locked tight, my mother prepared me and my siblings for bed, tucking us in and covering us with kisses and hugs. As she left the room, I spied my grandmother in the shadow of the doorway, and watched as she rested her head on my mother’s shoulder. As her tears begin to fall, I heard her say, barely above a whisper, “How will I go on without him here? How?” My mother’s reply was inaudible, but I could tell from her posture that her words were tender, full of comfort, and that her own tears mingled with my grandmother’s. Soon, the door closed and the room was engulfed by darkness, and the memory of my grandmother’s broken heart was stamped on mine forever.
I do not know what it is like to be a man on this earth. Or to be Christ. Or to be crucified. But I do know what it is like to have a son. And I have seen firsthand what it means to lose a son too soon (always too soon) and I cannot imagine that Mary said anything less than, “How? How will I go on without him?”
A few years ago, there was a popular worship tune called Here I am to Worship. And while I liked the song well enough, there was one line that has always bothered me a bit. Every time I hear the lyric “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross,” I wince. Even though I understand the writer’s intent, in the back of my mind is this gnawing thought: I might not know how much it cost, but there were those who did. Those such as Mary mother of Jesus’ and John; Mary Magdalene, and Peter. I am pretty sure that they understood the cost.
In her novel The Poisonwood Bible, author Barbara Kingslover writes these words: “For if there is any single thing that everyone hopes for most dearly, it must be this: that the youngest outlive the oldest.” I agree wholeheartedly and I don’t know why that would be any less true for Mary than it was for my grandmother. From where I sit, Palm Sunday is about jubilation and Easter is about rebirth and resurrection, but Good Friday is about loss. Who better understood and felt the cost of that loss than Christ’s own mother?
Sometimes the closest I can get to identifying with Christ’s suffering, is to identify with Mary’s. I am not the mother of Christ, but I am a woman and a mother of sons. Let’s be honest – the gulf between my paradigm as a twenty-first century middle-class Caucasian woman and Christ’s context as a first century Jewish male carpenter- turned-Messiah, is often quite wide. But by looking through the lens of Mary’s story, I can inch a little closer to understanding what the first Good Friday meant, the darkness that must have fallen over the hearts of those who loved Jesus, the void his death brought, bottomless and as dark as the sky. On Good Friday, I try and live in that place of loss and uncertainty, that place of Mary. I try to honor her loss, and live in a space where the sky is as dark as night, and the greatest of gifts have been ripped away prematurely. Only then, and only barely, am I able to scratch the surface of the wonder and miracle that is the Resurrection.
The Paschal Candle is a tradition in many liturgical churches, but I have found that it is a lovely tradition to carry on at home as well. Each year the candle is initially lit either on Holy Saturday or on Easter. Its purpose is to represent Christ and the light his Resurrection brought to the world. Traditionally, the candle is lit and placed in a prominent place in the front of the church, where it remains lit from Easter until the end of the Easter season on Ascension Sunday, and is then brought back out for special occasions such as births and marriages. In our home we use our Paschal Candle as the Christ Candle in our Advent Wreath, and light it on special occasions such as Holy Days, Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Holidays. This year we will light our Paschal candle during our Maundy Thursday meal, and then blow it out after the meal is complete, reminding us of Christ arrest and Crucifixion after his last supper, and then we will celebrate, lighting it again on Easter morning as we get ready to celebrate his resurrection with our community.
(Although traditionally only one candle is needed to be the household Paschal Candle, you may have unhappy crafters if you limit the family to just one. If each child would like to make his or her own candle, I say go for it—they can either give them as gifts to families who perhaps would not have made their own Christ Candles, or you can allow them to each make their own candle and emphasis how it represents their own personal relationship with Christ.)
1 large white candle in glass jar
Assortment of flat-backed buttons in a variety of colors and sizes
Small bowl of water
Hot glue gun and glue stick
Large box of matches
Coordinating scrapbook paper
The goal is to wrap your candle with your fabric and then add a cross design to the front.
To accomplish this, you will first need to measure out how much fabric you need. You can do this by placing your candle jar on the fabric and marking where you want to cut the top and the bottom of the fabric. Next wrap the piece of fabric around the circumference of the jar, marking again where you need to trim. Once you have figured the measurements, cut your fabric.
Next, with the paint brush, coat the outside of the jar (in all places where you want the fabric to adhere) with a thin coating of craft glue that has been mixed with just a bit of water.
Once the jar is thoroughly but thinly coated, wrap the fabric around the candle, working as you wrap to pull the fabric tight, smoothing out bubbles with your fingertips as you go.
To secure the fabric, run a bead of craft glue down the back edge, where the 2 ends overlap, then press closed and smooth.
To Create Your Cross
Start by picking a large focal-point button. This will serve as the anchor for your cross design.
Using hot glue adhere your large button to the fabric-covered jar.
Place your anchor button about ⅓ of the way down from the top of your jar.
Next, continue to add buttons using the hot glue, creating your cross design. I found that it was best to create the vertical line first and then the horizontal line.
If you would like to create a coordinating box of matches, you can cover an existing box, using scrapbook papers in coordinating colors and patterns. Simply use your matchbox as a template, tracing and then cutting out the right size paper pieces.
Next attach them to the matchbox with a glue stick.
Lastly, glue 2 buttons to the top, using craft glue, to create a cohesive look.
Jerusalem Jackson Greer is a writer, speaker, retreat leader, nest-fluffer, urban farm-gal, and author of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together. Jerusalem lives with her husband and two sons in a 1940s cottage in Central Arkansas at the crossroads of beauty and mess with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of chickens and a Hungarian Sheep Dog mutt. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life. She blogs about all of this and more at http://jerusalemgreer.com