Darkness and mourning have the power to distort time, to stretch seconds and minutes into days and months. It can happen the other way, too. In the presence of responsibilities in particular, time can be compressed, leaving the impression that payments and papers have crept up on us. And still sometimes, they leave the clock alone entirely. We can rarely tell what will happen when the light is blotted out or joy dies of cancer yet again.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Susan and Lucy didn’t have to mourn long at all. Aslan had been humiliated and murdered. His body lay on the great stone table throughout the night, mice nibbling away at the cords that bound his legs, one final act of thanks to the Lion and minimal means of comfort to the protagonists.
Lewis had a plot to move along. It’s only the next morning when the girls wandered away from and heard the deafening crack of the stone table when -like a giant curtain- it was torn in two and Aslan returned to them without scar or blemish, still smelling of the deeper magic. Lazarus had been in the tomb four days by the time Jesus showed up. He’d been gone long enough that the people feared the odor, the stench of death and decomposition when Jesus told them to roll the stone away. Nevertheless, when hope speaks, we listen, clutching at our hearts, praying -if hope can’t come through- to hold onto the pieces after they break.
Hands occupied with self, especially with broken hearts can’t do much but maintain white-knuckle grips, like some sort of living rigor mortis. Hands stronger than our own must pry cramped fingers loose.
Mary and the disciples had to wait three days. This also wasn’t long, but how much worse must it have been to find everything you’ve ever needed in the world and after following Him to the end, burying Him along with so many other aspirations?
If it’s death that we mourn, some of us will have to wait the rest of our lifetime to see someone we loved in that space where we will neither marry nor be given in marriage again. If we’re honest, we worry about what that relationship will look like when we get there. But during the wait, hours can birth to days and weeks until suddenly, grief has stolen years from us. And sometimes, we’re not sorry to see them go.
In much of western culture, we expedite our mourning, cut it short. We take a sad little stay-cation from work but have to be back and functioning next Monday. Besides, with bills to pay and pills to take and a proclivity of self-medicating with busyness, we welcome the distraction, the opportunity to flex our fingers and ply them to keyboards and nailers and mops and phones.
Great and numerous are life’s indecencies and injuries. But we have to remember that so too are its joys. And to be fair, time flies when we’re having fun. It slows when we’re at work or school or sometimes even church. It absolutely disappears every time I nap. Because time is fickle, or our perception is susceptible to hormones, funeral homes and good books.