Dying to Live: A Reflection on Rising

flowers and butterfly

Next week we will observe Holy Week and step once again into the movement from death to resurrection, from the death of Good Friday and the loneliness of Holy Saturday to the life of Easter Sunday. This movement is reflected in our stories of heartache and harm as we choose, again and again, to turn toward life. Here, Allender Center Fellow Mandy Hughes writes about a moment of death in her own story and about the kind of life that only comes after dying.

Lately my eyes have been drawn toward the heavens, and I imagine rising:

I watch the shifting clouds that dance outside my window, forming shapes that tell me stories; they remind me I am unyielding like water but light and free like air.

I watch the waxing moon that hangs above my rooftop, keeping time with a rhythm that beats for it alone; it reminds me to be as faithful to my own music when visible as I am when hidden from view.

I watch the red cardinal that sings atop my oak tree, proving that it’s good to be exuberant; he reminds me that my voice does matter, even when I can’t tell who’s listening.

Lately my eyes have been drawn toward the heavens, and I remember dying:

My husband tells me he wants to leave because he doesn’t love me; perhaps he never has. He says he might stay if I’ll only agree to his terms—but his demands dishonor me. I am certain my “no” will kill me, but I cannot say “yes” and live…

The door finally closes, and he is gone.

I am left alone, staring at an empty space as I wait for the engine to start and his car to pull away. Something tells me I will never see him again.

Nausea overwhelms me, and I run for the toilet. As I crouch on the floor, heaving, I wonder how I’m going to live. In a way, I won’t; a version of me is dying.

I will never be the same.

It will be months before I file for divorce, and even longer before I name the whole truth: my husband abused me. It will take years to reclaim the parts of me I’ve locked away in order to survive my marriage.

But today, in the midst of my dying, the heaving ends and I rise from the bathroom floor. As I move toward the stairs, I feel an enormous weight lift from my shoulders, and I hear these words inside me:

“It is over. You are free.” 

Now my heart is drawn toward the heavens, and I hear the Liturgists singing:

Kings become fools for you
Kingdoms to ruins for you
Vapor finds ground in you
Music finds sound in you
Everything rising
Everything rising

I remember the choice that was certain to kill me; it was also a mark of my longing to live.

I remember the “no” that led to my death; it was also a “yes” to my rising.

I remember the man who said “no” to false power, who died and rose again—

And I know that his story is also my story, the story of all of Creation:

We die that we may live.

Everything rising.