My God, why have you abandoned me….

In the dream I was driving a convertible down a winding mountain road. On my left, a gaping chasm cut between mountain peaks. As I rounded a curve, I lost control of the car and went through a barrier…over the cliff. In the car with me was my co-worker Elizabeth. I woke, knowing that two people died in that crash.

In January of 2014, shortly after that dream, Elizabeth was newly pregnant, and I had a case of shingles around my waist….I feared that my dream was a warning to her that her baby was at risk due to exposure from my illness, and I asked her to discuss it with her doctor.

A little more than one year later, (having delivered a healthy baby boy) Elizabeth died at age 37 of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

About a year after her death, my son Steve was diagnosed with widely metastatic cancer-melanoma-in his brain, spine and lungs. He underwent a year-long cycle of surgery, radiation and immunotherapy, but in March of 2017, with radiation damage to his brain tissue, and having been put on a blood thinner for a newly found blood clot, he too suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and died a week later at age 39.

In the dream two of us died…..I can say that my son’s death was as wrenching as if it were my own. We talked or texted almost daily. He told me his wishes, his hopes. And though he ALWAYS projected a positive outlook “Of course I’m going to beat this thing…” he was able to talk to me and his father openly of his fears, and of his concern over the sadness that had overtaken his wife, Cassie. And not a day goes by that I don’t think of him without experiencing an ache too deep to massage….

On this recent Palm Sunday, the lectionary readings were hard. Psalm 22: “My God, why have you abandoned me?” and the Passion according to Mark. Verses 35 and 36 read “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

I listened to those readings and felt the gall rising in my throat. “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” “My God, why have you abandoned me?” If everything is possible, and he could have taken this cup away, why did he abandon me/us?

Jesus suffered death…a horrible death, on the cross. He understood/stands my pain. He knows the muck through which I (and Cassie, and Elizabeth’s family….and every other grieving person) walk. And He didn’t come to deliver me/us FROM death, but rather THROUGH death….his own. The “cup” that he wished to have taken away was not his own death, but that he had to imbibe the whole of OUR sins-and experience the resulting dark chasm that clearly shows our separation from God.

“Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he drank the cup….all the way to the dregs, and plunged over that cliff.

And because of that, Steve and Elizabeth….and I….did not go over that cliff and into that chasm on Friday without hope that we, too, would come out the other side, victorious on Sunday morning.