Roll Back the Stone

I’ve often wondered how preachers, ministers, priests or rabbis inspire themselves to write and preach something unique each year at the same holiday that holds the same message. It must be enormously difficult and probably why they are specially ordained to perform their task.

I’m not a preacher or theologian of any kind, but Easter compels me to write and share. Its message makes it my favorite holiday. I, too, have the same question about how to deliver a unique and yet meaningful message to my flock, my HOPEspotters.

Last year on Holy Saturday, I posted a blog about the sanctity of this day. In Holy Week, Holy Saturday is, for me, the unsung hero. Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper. Good Friday is the clear message of John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Yup. Pretty Huge.

Then we leap to Easter Sunday. The Resurrection. If you’re like me, you can still get chill bumps hearing the trumpets blare during, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and I’d be willing to bet you are silently singing “All-le-lu-ia!”

But Holy Saturday isn’t celebrated. I believe, that is a shame. Because, as I’ve said before, Holy Saturday, is where most of us live, a lot of the time.

As a hospice nurse evaluator, my primary job is to meet with patients and families who’ve been given a terminal diagnosis and talk to them about the option of hospice. It’s like I walk in on Good Friday and try so very hard to explain Easter Sunday. Yes, there will still be a death, but there can be hope and purpose and continuous expression of love.

But just like the disciples, Easter Sunday is almost impossible to see on Good Friday.

Holy Saturday, I’ve come to believe, should be the national holiday celebrating the gift of showing up. Because Holy Saturday for the disciples was the day their faith was most supremely tested. The Messiah was in a tomb, behind a stone. All of their hope and belief lay with him in that tomb. How could they survive that day, especially given the brutality of Good Friday?

Too much. Too hard. Too sad.

And yet, they stayed together. They circled the wagons as we say now. They showed up for each other on that day for all the feelings they felt. Undoubtedly, they grieved.

I have a family member I love dearly. Very recently, one of his closest friends suffered an inconceivable loss. His youngest brother, after years of battling depression, commit suicide. My beloved, very private, family member acted in what can only be described as Holy Saturday godliness. He knew there was nothing to say. His actions were simple and pure: he went to his friend’s house. He helped his wife take care of their young babies. He washed the dinner dishes. He drank beers on the deck with his buddy and listened without judgment. There was sadness and hurt and laughs and confessions. There was Holy Saturday.

The courage to show up on Holy Saturday is what made the disciples godly as it does those among us who are willing to do so. Are you the friend who appears after the cancer diagnosis before the established treatment plan? Are you the person who listens to the heartbreak without offering solution but only pure empathy? Can you look hideous inconceivable, totally unfair loss and fear and stay present? Well, then you are a patron saint of Holy Saturday.

But unlike last year, where I tried to highlight the sanctity of Holy Saturday, this year I have a call to action. Showing up and being present is purposeful and holy action, never to be minimized.

Yet, when possible, roll back the stone.

I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself seriously religious and I am admittedly lackadaisical in practice. But I was raised in an amazing church community with exposure to and love from some of the very best clergy and for this I am eternally grateful.

With this background and faith I go into every patient and family conversation understanding I am walking in to their Good Friday. Regardless of their religious belief, in my head, I know that when I show up they are walking to Calvary. Hopeless. My challenge is to meet them there and be present with them through the uncertainty and fear of Holy Saturday. I refuse to lose that sensitivity, no matter how long I do this.

What I haven’t figured out is how to post on LInkedIN as a skill - what I’ve realized is my actual job. I, with my entire team behind me, have to roll back the stone. I have to/ I GET to demonstrate that there is HOPE beyond their Good Friday:  there is love and there is community.

And to be clear, even the Easter holiday can’t turn me into a Polly-Anna. There are some cases I encounter, professionally and personally, that are so grievously sad, that the thought of rolling back the stone seems flippant and likely impossible.

For example, a boy died in our elementary school this year in a freak accident. He was 11. How do you move that stone? A 35 year old Mom, with a freak cancer,died in our hospice program, leaving behind two elementary school kids. For them, that tomb must seem sealed.

And yet, albeit impossibly, it isn’t. The wings of HOPE have been consistently, demonstrably strong and wide.

The stone gets rolled back. In the Bible. In your home. In your heart. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all, from time to time, even been part of helping it to roll back.

If I were a preacher, or a scientist trying to prove a hypothesis, my experience based message is this: yes, we all live in Holy Saturday, the in between of hope lost and hope restored. Especially at the most dramatic parts of our lives. BUT. What I’ve found is this: last year I preached the sanctity of Holy Saturday. This year, I extol its purpose.

What I mean is, perhaps Easter Sunday couldn’t happen without Holy Saturday because perhaps only when we genuinely. show up TOGETHER do we have the power to roll back the stone- or at least begin to try.

Hopespotters, on this my favorite day- Happy Easter. May all the stones in your heart be rolled back by the true disciples in your life.

Holy Saturday for all of us

I am not an extremely religious person. I am not a preacher, chaplain or any kind of theologian. My life, my upbringing and most definitely my work, regularly take me to a place where I have to contemplate faith. Born on Good Friday and a lifelong lover of the Easter message, today is the day that gives me the most pause and compels me to write to you.


Today is Holy Saturday - the day where I think each of us live. Every day. Holy Saturday is the pause button between lost hope and hope regained. And before you think I’m going all biblical on this blog, stay tuned. Let me explain. 


A back up: Holy Week marks the end of the Lenten season for Christian people (don’t go away, non-Christian readers). Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter when God sings to us a song from the musical, “Godspell”. He asks us to do the following “Day by Day”: to see thee (Him) more clearly, love (Him) more dearly, follow (Him) more nearly. Regardless of your religious belief, considering your faith with these three pieces of advice is most likely purposeful. The grand finale week comes down to Maundy Thursday ( the celebration of the Last Supper) and Good Friday, the day that remembers Christ’s crucifixion. After Good Friday, the faithful community holds its collective breath until the Easter candle is lit. For the believers, Jesus Christ is Risen and eternal HOPE is restored.

Even if you don’t believe, the story of hope lost and hope restored by resurrection/ redemption is compelling. It is repeated over and over again in literature, symphony, poetry and film.

Yesterday was Good Friday. I’ve always had a kindred relationship with this day because in 1971, April 9th, the day I was born, fell on Good Friday. As I got older, I questioned what made Good Friday so “good” if Jesus was killed. On my wedding day, my sister, matron of honor, answered the question definitively. In her toast to Kevin and me, she referenced my Good Friday birth and her Easter Sunday first meeting of me. She joked, but stated accurately, that her gift to me of plastic Easter eggs in my bassinet was quite genius as it demonstrated life’s fragility and God’s promise for HOPE. Perhaps,  that was the very first moment I fell in love with this virtue.

In isolation, Good Friday is devastating. The baby that was born in a manger in Bethlehem is murdered for his beliefs. It seems archaic to think such action might be taken, until you take into account the multitude of terror attacks we see and fear on a daily basis. For those that believed in Jesus and what He represented, Hope died on the cross that day.

For the believers, there’s an annual spoiler alert. Easter Sunday listed on the calendar reassures the fearful that the stone is, in fact,  pushed to the side, the tomb is empty, and the King is Risen. Whatever dress or pastel suit a Christian might wear to service/ mass, it doesn’t cover up the goose bumps that come when the choir sings “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”. Under your breath, you are saying “Hallelujah”.  Don’t deny it.

So Good Friday, blah. Easter Sunday, Yay! Why oh why am I writing about Holy Saturday? I will tell you.

I started this blog as an effort to capture life, and the juxtaposition, of hospice nurse and Mom of growing boys. Throw in cancer survivorship and I feel I have “life bytes” I want to share. With a plea for forgiveness from the Christian church, I think the largest message for the general population comes not from Good Friday OR Easter Sunday, but in under-represented Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday is the scary place where so many of us sit every day: I’m divorced, will my kids hate me? My wife has cancer, will I raise my kids alone ? My child has autism, will she ever be invited to a party? These questions, and so many others, sit in the broad apron of Holy Saturday. I remember learning that my cancer had recurred at the same time I wanted to start a family. Who would I be if not a Mom?? The “day before” seemingly takes away the hope and the “Easter” Sunday seems unlikely or unfathomable. My belief is most of us, every day, are battling some form of anxiety from living through the day that comes after the bad news, and praying for the HOPE that could be restored.

Friends, I have no cure for Holy Saturday. For the disciples of Jesus, they have the gift of hindsight. After the tomb was empty, we can imagine that they high fived each other and “dabbed” with the “I knew its” and “Told you so, Thomas!”. They could only get to that place after their agony of enduring Holy Saturday. I really do think that after that experience of living through Good Friday and surviving through to Easter Sunday, confidence was given and endurance for their next, inevitable, spiritual test.

I think, for all of the struggling I see, personally and professionally, the goal should not be to cure Holy Saturday. As friends and caregivers and family members and spouses and parents, my belief is that we most hold Holy Saturday as the most holiest of days, requiring each of us to show each other compassion and empathy. It is, perhaps, the very best day for us to see HIM more clearly, love HIM, more dearly and follow HIM, more clearly -- day by day! And, Holy Saturday tasks each of us to deliver the spoiler message that is, of course, HOPE.