There’s just no bottom, I’ve thought. It might even have crossed my mind while waiting at the Bellport Dock for the sunrise service to begin at six a.m. on Easter morning, which is when I need to get up to have the kind of spiritual experience that isn’t mediated by fetching a coloring book or a sheet of stickers for a toddler. There’s just no bottom to it—the cruelty, the grief, the loss. Surely Jesus knew it, knew that for however much longer the earth would last that there would be no end to sin. And he came back anyway.
How much more next, I managed to scribble from Pastor Claire’s Easter sermon. How much more next? Surely Jesus’s disciples, even the cowardly and traitorous ones, must have asked themselves this. Surely the women who loved him (who loved him because he loved them, loved them as whole people and not subsidiaries of husbands or fathers) must have asked themselves this. How much more next can we take?
The next day, the 146th mass shooting of 2023 took place, at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky. We visited our old babysitter and her husband, who is living with ALS, and I took them a bunch of daffodils I cut from the huge patch in the yard that grows back, year after year. We didn’t plant them. I don’t know who did. I don’t know why someone would plant a huge daffodil patch in the middle of the lawn, but someone did.
Later I found myself, entirely unexpectedly, at Sunken Meadow State Park, driving around the parking area wondering how much longer the above-mentioned toddler’s impromptu nap might last, when she stirred, and I offered her the option to take a walk on the beach. She took it, and took herself right to the water’s edge, where she was happy to spend the better part of an hour chucking rocks and sticks into the bay.
I spotted a fish twitching in the sand—silver, with blue eyes and gills. Who knows how long it might have been lying there, but I thought if I threw it back in the water, it might have a chance. I tossed it in, and it flailed for a few minutes. More than once I thought it was about to right itself and swim away. But a seagull spotted it, knew an injured or badly winded snack when it saw one, and dove in and plucked the fish up in its thick black beak. An Easter Monday act of mercy for naught, I suppose.
The toddler noticed nothing. I try not to interrupt her play—there are enough interruptions in life, and who knows if whatever I want to teach her is as, or more, important than whatever she’s doing. I wondered, though, if I should have given her a lesson about the food chain, the circle of life, the relationship between predator and prey. I thought of another mother we know who probably would have done that, and wondered if she is a better mother. In the end I let her make sand angels even though I found it everywhere, down to the diaper, later on, and said nothing about the fish. There’s more than enough next in the world to last her a lifetime.
How much more next? Only God knows. And God knew, in the person of Jesus, when he left the mountaintop after the Transfiguration, when he was raised up on the cross and then again from the dead. And he rose up anyway.
There is no bottom. But the resurrection reminds us there is no ceiling, either. There is no end to death but that there is, the end to which it was put on Easter.
I’d throw back the fish again. I’d show up at dawn again. I’d let her make sand angels again.