This Easter, choose to rise higher
Every life is precious, permanent, and protected.
Perhaps the thing we yearn for most when a loved one passes on is to bring them back for just one more day. We yearn to hold them, tell them again how much we love them. This year especially has brought a new form of grief for many who, because of pandemic restrictions, have had to say goodbye to family and loved ones without the added comfort of being by their side.
The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, expressed similar feelings when her beloved husband Gilbert Eddy passed on after just five sweet years of marriage. At this point, Mrs. Eddy had founded her Metaphysical College; taught many classes of students; published the third edition of her textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures; and been ordained the pastor of her fledgling church. Although a 19th-century woman, she had demonstrated great self-sufficiency and was not dependent on her husband for her livelihood. But in addition to being one of the first of her students to advertise as a Christian Science practitioner, Gilbert was a tremendous aid to her in many aspects of her work, and she dearly missed his strong, gracious, and stalwart support.
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Nearly a month after his death, “she felt almost as though she never could be comforted while separated from her beloved Gilbert,” according to Robert Peel in Mary Baker Eddy: Years of Trial. In a letter to a friend, she described her husband as “ ‘strong, noble, and [with] the sweetest disposition and the most benevolent charitable nature I ever recognized in any person’ ” (p. 117).
Peel records that Mrs. Eddy decided to retreat to Vermont with trusted friends “for a short period of quiet” to find solace. During her stay, she wrote to her student Julia Bartlett, “I cant yet feel much interest in anything . . . of earth. I shall try and eventually succeed in rising from the gloom of my irreparable loss, but it must take time” (p. 118).
Of course, Mrs. Eddy did eventually rise above her grief, returning to her work in a little over a month. And from her own healing experience, she was able to bring comfort and relief to those who suffer sorrow and loss. In her textbook, she wrote, “This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death” (p. 304).
Imagine the joy Christ Jesus’ disciples must have felt when they learned that their Master was not dead but had risen. Jesus did come back—and for more than a day. He shared a joyous reunion breakfast with his disciples, walked and talked with them, and helped them to rise above their grief. Mrs. Eddy explained: “His resurrection was also their resurrection. It helped them to raise themselves and others from spiritual dulness and blind belief in God into the perception of infinite possibilities” (Science and Health, p. 34).
Easter celebrates the risen Christ, which gives each of us the promise of eternal life. It invites us all to turn from grief to the recognition of those “infinite possibilities.” I certainly had to after my mom passed on. My husband and I had just moved with our young family so I could begin a new job in a new state. We had been living close to my mom and planned to move her nearby after we’d settled into our new home. When a caregiver called me at work to tell me of her sudden decline, I retreated to a conference room for some privacy. There was no time to travel to be with her, so I was incredibly grateful for the caregiver and close friends (all from our church family in the area where she was living) who gathered by her side and stayed with her. With me on the phone, they formed a circle around her, singing hymns and offering prayers of support as she gracefully departed. It felt holy and heart-wrenching at the same time.
In the days that followed, I wrestled with intense grief. I reached out to God for a greater sense of the permanence of my mom’s true, spiritual life and the immortality of her unique identity, which I knew couldn’t be lost. I wanted to rise higher in my spiritual understanding in order to overcome the waves of grief.
I gradually gained tangible insights into the nature of God as infinite Life.
As I grappled with concepts of life and death and felt challenged to let go of a purely physical sense of her life, I gradually gained tangible insights into the nature of God as infinite Life and of Life’s infinite expression. I began to resist the strong pull of grief, and I felt a closeness to my mom that was in some ways more tangible than when we’d been together in person. But the grief still hadn’t completely subsided, so I called a Christian Science practitioner for help through prayer. I remember asking her, “How do I know that my mom is OK? Is she safe and happy now?” The practitioner gently reminded me that my mom couldn’t lose her life, since God is eternal Life—“Life that never sleeps” (Fay Linn, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 237).
I couldn’t see God, but I could still feel the tender ever-presence of our one Father-Mother, God. And even though I couldn’t see my mom anymore, I could still cherish her life and know that she expressed the “Life that never sleeps.”
The practitioner compared it to walking into another room and shutting the door. We might be in different rooms, but neither of us had vanished! The import of her words had a profound effect on my thought, and I could feel my perspective shifting. From the moment I hung up the phone, the grief lost its hold and was replaced with strength and lightness. I felt as though I had just awakened from a dream.
Each life is precious, permanent, and protected.
This statement by Mrs. Eddy describes what I experienced: “Truth is the real; error is the unreal. You will gather the importance of this saying, when sorrow seems to come, if you will look on the bright side; for sorrow endureth but for the night, and joy cometh with the light. Then will your sorrow be a dream, and your waking the reality, even the triumph of Soul over sense” (Christian Healing, p. 10).
I had proof of the permanence of this mental shift when I was asked to share readings and remarks on my mom’s life at a ceremony that included family members who were of another Christian denomination. Their pastor graciously guided us through the service, and at the end he tearfully thanked me, saying that although he’d never known my mom, he felt he knew her in the most profound spiritual way after hearing my remarks and readings from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook. I saw this as evidence of the risen Christ, present and active in the consciousness of each of us, reminding us that every life is precious, permanent, and protected.
This is the gift of never-ending life that Jesus proved through his resurrection and ascension. And it continues today in this Easter season. We can all choose to rise up higher together because “we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (I John 5:20).