Do I Believe in the Resurrection?
Many years ago now, when I was still a teenager, I fell upon my mother’s dead body and wept. I clung onto her when the life was gone, but the warmth still remained on her skin.
The audio is a transcript of the written piece recorded by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann for Geez Out Loud.
We carried her body downstairs and then into the living room. With the help of women in our neighbourhood, I washed her body. I ran my fingers along her surgery-scarred head, her eyes that had loved me so well, and her mouth that I would never again hear sing. Behind the blur of tears, I can still smell burning sage and hear Taizé chants playing on the CD player. She lay on dry ice there for two days and nights. We told stories. We prayed. We cried. We vigiled.
Several months later as we approached Easter, scripture shapeshifted before my weary eyes. My heart clung to the women as they carried spices and travelled toward Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. Violated and brutalized on the cross, his body was now guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet, here came these women full of bravery, carrying grief and love, to honour his body and ritualize their mourning.
What I suddenly saw was that the women did not go looking for resurrection. They went with their eyes and hands open, walking right into the place of pain and violence. They went to touch death. And it was there that they stumbled upon resurrection.
At nineteen, I felt that call deep within me. Stay with my grief. Honour it. Walk towards it. And perhaps one day, out of this beautiful pain, I’d be surprised by new life.
Do I actually believe in the true reality of the resurrection? Did Jesus come back to life?
I don’t know. Does it matter?
What I do know is that I would stake my life on it. I believe in mystery and wonder. I believe that systems of murder and oppression do not have the final word. I believe in life, in compost, in the seedling lingering under the snow. I believe in the provocative and dangerous power of resurrection. I believe that resurrection is something we practise with our lives. I believe it looks like justice. I believe it is born of struggle.
These pages are filled with the stories of those who have carried their own spices and sat with pain and have become witnesses of resurrection. May we hear their word and believe them.
May that be our quest with this issue and in this historical moment which aches with death. Do not come here searching for resurrection. Walk instead to the places of death and grief. Refuse to let death sit in the hands of the authorities, but instead hold the broken bodies in our communal arms anointing them with love. Our eyes are open. Our hearts are present. Our hands are enacting the rituals that have run through our ancestors’ bodies into our own. And in the midst of it all, perhaps we, too, may stumble upon a resurrection that has the power to disrupt life as we know it.
Lydia Wylie-Kellermann is the editor of Geez. She lives in Detroit, Michigan.