The Worst of All Fridays
Today I sat in my office and grieved with my client who lost his wife two weeks ago. They had been married for over 50 years and had what could only be described as one of the great love stories. He told me how beautiful she was and how grateful he was to know that she was standing tall and moving lithe and bright with Jesus today. He would remember her forever this way. Like so many who complete their suffering with a bought of Alzheimer's or dementia, it was a sudden fall which had precipitated her last days. Alice hadn't spoken in months and then out of nowhere she took a fall and stopped eating and drinking. My client went to her side as quickly as he could and kissed her on the lips. She looked at him as if seeing him for the first time and whispered, "It was beautiful." The first words she'd said in months, and the last she would ever say.
"It was beautiful."
It was, wasn't it? The kiss. The nearly 60 years of love. The staid man trembling with tears and sadness and joy and wonder and loss at the thought of life without the one person who had mattered most to him in this life.
It was beautiful.
We wept together, he and I, as we shared stories of loss and death, people we missed, how we'd loved them and how we'd let them go. Death is a dangerous foe... it's indiscriminate, coming after the saints and the sinners, it is the race everyone loses. Even Jesus.
We are prone to call today Good Friday, but if we are honest, before it can be seen as Good Friday, it must be accurately seen (as Buechner said) the Worst of All Fridays. It is the day, that if you lived through it in real time seemed to be the ultimate validation of death. The death of the Holy One. It is the day that the violence of this kingdom of earth caught up with the glory of the kingdom of heaven, and by all appearances, death won one more race to the finish. It is the day that betrayal was the currency of the moment, denial the voice in the skies, vengeance the power left to human hands. It was, in fact, a Friday of unspeakable evils propagated without an ounce of restraint. Where innocence succumbed to the threat of guilt. Liberation pressed to it's end under the crushing blow of slavery. To have lived through it must have been like living through a hurricane -- the world turned upside down.
And of course it had to be this way. Not because a child-abusing God needed to work out his anger on a willing subject, but because the violence at the heart of men, a hatred of goodness, liberation and beauty had to see itself taken to its ultimate end. Evil had to have its day so we could see evil clear. It's ugliness and brutality the ultimate mirror of what we are all capable in our attempts at self-preservation. Our will to control taken to its obvious completion. The cross exists as the center of space and time not because God needed it to get to us, but because without it we couldn't see God.
It was beautiful.
As the violence which turns the world upside down claims its ultimate victim, the initial rumblings of the earthquake to come are reverberating. The tremors of a empty tomb are coming. And a day when the evil of the world proceeds its worst, becomes the down stroke to the narrative that ends in only love. Infinite, unencumbered love. The greatest of great love stories. The foundational love story which takes death and turns it into life, violence into liberation, suffering into endless joy. It is on the back of this love that my dear client kisses his wife's lips as her days slip away. It is in the quake of a coming Sunday that she looks him and utters the impossible possibility:
It was beautiful.
And it was.
As my father was prone to say before he died, "It may be Friday, but Sunday's comin'." It is only in the promise of his words where we can say that the Worst of All Fridays is aptly titled Good Friday. It is the Sunday that makes it good.