Grief and Mourning
Today is the second day in a holy trinity of Christian observances. Yeterday, Good Friday, was the observation of Jesus’s crucifixion. It was grief. Tomorrow, Easter, is the observation of Jesus’s triumph over death and suffering. It is joy. Today, Holy Saturday, is, in many ways, an observation of absence. It is the necessary interstitial space between where we are and where we want to be. It exists as the reverberation of the thing that came before and uncertainty about the thing that will come after. It is the longing for clarity and relief. It is mourning.
Christina Sharpe theorizes the concept of being “in the wake.” The wake is the track left on the water’s surface by a ship; the air currents behind a body in flight; a region of disturbed flow. It is an unfinished project. When in the wake, it’s not enough to treat the past as something merely behind. In the wake, we invite the past to rupture the present. We acknowledge the power of and in sitting together in the pain and sorrow of death. In a society obsessed with invoking the dead in order to move past/get beyond/get over, the wake calls us to abide. Sharpe says:
It means work. It is work: hard emotional, physical, and intellectual work that demands vigilant attendance to the needs of the dying, to ease their way, and also to the needs of the living.
Today, we mourn the millons of sick and dead, overworked, unemployed, incarcerated, abused, anxious, and lonely. Less so the merely uncomfortable and inconvenienced, but them too.
A few days ago President Trump tweeted that, after quarantine is over, the horror of the virus “must be quickly forgotten.” If the fact that our country facilitated mass premature death by defunding public health teams, ignoring warnings, and allowing xenophobia to misinform our governmental response is forgotten, then surely the end of this “new normal” of collective social distance and suffering will be met with a return to our old normal of selective social distance and suffering. While acting like all of this unnecessary death didn’t happen may get us to the next phase of survival, it will not get us to the other side of death and on to new life. The other side requires not just memory, but mourning. It is in the wake of the horrific that the foundations of humility and consciousness are constructed. Then, and only then, can we be prepared for transformation. Then, and only then, can we expect a Resurrection in the morning.