The doctrine of resurrection was never a problem for me until my daughter, Keenan, was stillborn. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, but life after death in a resurrected body isn’t a mind-bender. The details of how it will happen is the mind-bender. Jesus rising from the dead is the perfect ending to his epic life. Christ conquers death. Death is no more. The final evil, death, is defeated. All who believe in Christ will also rise again.
Being from a big Irish Catholic family meant I went to a lot of wakes and funerals growing up and I never once questioned bodily resurrection. After I held my little girl in my arms, her cold, lifeless body, that is when the Resurrection became hard. It is not that I suddenly didn’t believe in the Resurrection. It was the first time in my life that I needed the Resurrection to be true. I hadn’t needed something to be true so badly in my life.
People might ask, “How can you believe in the the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How do you know that you’re actually forgiven.” There are two answers: first, God promises that I am forgiven; second, I know what it feels like to be forgiven. When it comes to bodily resurrection, all I’ve got is a promise. I haven’t been resurrected, I haven’t met any resurrected people, and no one can tell me what it feels like. A promise from God is all I’ve got to go on. Grief can be very intense some days, and no offense God, but a promise doesn’t always cut it. Some days I need the Resurrection to be true so badly, it brings me to tears.
The first Good Friday after Keenan died was one of those days. It was not a pretty day. I think it was the first time I really allowed myself to contemplate the promise of the Resurrection. What if it is just a story? What if Jesus wasn’t actually resurrected? What would that mean?
Turns out, I am a very big proponent of bodily resurrection. It’s a non-negotiable. Other things like: what did Jesus look like? was he really born on December 25th? What about the “missing years?” The answers to these questions do not matter when it comes to my faith. However, if the Resurrection isn’t true, then doesn’t all of Christ’s other promises fall? Thankfully, though, I have seen enough of God in my life to know that God would not lie about something as big as Jesus rising from the dead.
I firmly believe that Jesus is the Christ and was resurrected from the dead. Good, that is covered. But, what about me? what about my grandparents? what about Keenan? Keenan is the one person for whom I need bodily resurrection to be true. And, then, as I thought about it, I realized that I needed bodily resurrection to be true for me too.
Why? Why do I need it to be true? Because I want to hold Keenan again, even if it is in a new resurrected form that I can’t possibly understand. I want to see her eyes open and discover if she has blue eyes like her little brother. I don’t even care what age she is in her resurrected body. I just want to look on her beautiful face again, not a picture, and the next time I see her face I want it animated with life. I didn’t get a chance to experience these things with Keenan in this life and I want to experience them in the next life.
Perhaps this is the wrong reason to want bodily resurrection, but I think God understands. I should hope God understands. God has heard all my questions about this and he already knows what I think, so I’m just going to be honest and put it out there. Perhaps only parents who have buried a baby think this way. When you bury a child before you get a chance to meet her, you not only bury a tiny casket, but all the hopes and dreams and questions and wonderings about her as well. That is a lot to bury. At the end of time when all believers are resurrected I hope that my hopes and dreams and questions and wonderings will be resurrected too. I hope that my little family will all be reunited in the next life and we’ll spend eternity worshipping at the Throne of the Lord and get to do a little hiking as well.