Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:5
So, this week I thought I would change course a bit. We can only get so heavy for so long without needing a break, right? And, why is that? Maybe because we’re human?
The details of the day we buried Caleb are too much for this “lighter” blog today, but the weight of the rituals my husband, my family, and I moved through was only bearable by moments of pure comedy. My brother and I experienced such a moment after the burial as we all piled into the back of my parents’ SUV, much like we used to as like little kids. His freckled face was flushed with the tears he was wiping away. We caught blurry eyes, and I whispered to him, “Now, let’s get wasted.”
His face immediately melted into laughter and we sat in the back seat howling as my dad drove us all out of the cemetery. I guess he didn’t expect that to come out of the mouth of the dead baby’s mama, Religious Studies major and all! But I, after making certain to NOT drink or drug myself for the first 10 days of this terrible new reality, knowing that to do so would only prolong the shock and make it difficult for me to begin a healthy grieving process (thank you, chaplain training!), knew now was the time to lighten the mood. We all desperately needed some levity!
When we arrived back at my parents’ for our family after-party, my father-in-law walked through the door carting the biggest bottle of vodka I had ever seen. It was a greyhound day. That day was truly one of the saddest days of my life, but being surrounded by the people I loved, drinking greyhounds and smoking as many cigarettes as I wanted on the front porch, was certainly one of the most profound. We will never have a baptism party or a birthday party for Caleb, and it seemed that that day, we celebrated a whole life of celebrations for him. We honored his life in tears, and also in toasts.
The sweet memories of Caleb’s day definitely influenced both baptismal celebrations for Caleb’s younger brothers. Our house rocked with loved ones celebrating the healthy births of Abraham, and then Samuel. So many in attendance were there, they said, because they had already been there through the hard times and wanted to celebrate our joy with us. And, celebrate we did! Wine flowed, good food abounded, and we forever will cherish that profound feeling of being surrounded by people who truly cared for us through the best and the worst life can bring.
Sam’s Godfather picked up the keg for his baptismal celebration. When Uncle Mark explained that this keg was, indeed, for a baptism, the bartender replied, “You’re Catholic, aren’t you?” Oh, yes, sir, we are!
I love John’s depiction of Jesus’ first miracle (chapter 2). Jewish weddings, even for peasants, lasted a week. Can you imagine? However, nothing could fizzle a party more than running out of wine. Now, Mary, Jesus’ mother, was the one who was concerned with the wine shortage–not Jesus. She came to Him with her concerns, and trusted Him to provide. Do we do that? Do we come to Jesus for help not only in times of crisis, but also in times of celebration? How often do we come to the Lord and pray, “Lord, please provide joy, moments of comedy, and new wine in my heart, life, and even in this party?
I also think it’s interesting that Jesus turned water–not grape juice, or vinegar,or any other beverage–into wine. The water was intended for the purification rituals for the Jews before they sat down to eat. Water is a symbol for new life, purity, baptism. It is also rain, floods, and tears. That by which we are purified is also that which we may be drowned by.
From this water, Jesus makes “the best wine.” Only those who know Him witness the miracle; the wedding continues, most in attendance oblivious to the spectacular miracle they are drinking. But, isn’t that the way of these kinds of miracles, when He miraculously turns our valley of tears into “the best wine?” We are left marveling at the fruit of our anguish, wondering how it is possible to turn mourning into dancing?
Truly, this is the God we serve! My tendency to be rigidly religious is challenged by this idea that Jesus cares not only for our spirits, but also inspired the creation of wine, and maybe even greyhounds and chiggys.