It's easy to believe in Easter morning, with its message of resurrection and eternal life, when the mortal life we're living is comfortable and good. When our children are tucked in their beds, safe and well. When our husband is well, too, and our mother and father and sisters and brothers; when everyone we care about is reachable, by plane or by train or by phone.
It's easy to believe in Easter morning when death is confined to headlines and illness is only a setback. When cemeteries and chronic care facilities are not where we go every day. When it's Jesus on the cross, not our son, our mother, our daughter.
It's not so easy to believe when your 11-year-old dies in your arms or your 24-year-old gets run down by a car or your daughter is murdered or your brother has ALS or your son returns from war physically and mentally broken.
Then, the crocuses blooming, the hyacinth creeping up from the ground, the trees with their buds and the birds with their songs and the priests with their talk of everlasting life mean nothing. Because then they are only what they are. Flowers. Song. Words.
"Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe," the disciple Thomas said to the other Apostles when they told him that Jesus had come to them while they were hiding behind locked doors.
Jesus was Thomas's friend. All the Apostles were Thomas's friends. They'd been together day and night for three years. They'd seen Jesus heal the sick, give sight to the blind, calm the seas, feed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, and even raise the dead.
Jesus told them that he would rise from the dead. And they believed. But when Jesus was gone and they were alone and scared, they doubted. Not just Thomas, but all of them. When Jesus appeared again, Thomas was with the group and Jesus said: "Bring here thy finger, and see my hand; and bring here thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing."
Even the saints have needed proof. Thomas, who didn't doubt that Jesus could raise Lazarus, who had faith then, who encouraged him to go to Judea when no one else did, faltered later.
We all falter.
When I was a child, I believed all the Catholic Church taught me.
"Who made you?"
"God made me."
"Why did God make you?"
"God made me to know, love, and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next."
I believed in that next world with a passion.
I believed that in heaven my mother would have the babies she wanted and I would have sisters and brothers, and my father wouldn't have to work two jobs and everyone would be happy.
So when did death become not the celestial, wonderful, transforming event but something that made grown-ups cry?
A boy in my school died. Then a boy in my neighborhood. No one talked about how lucky they were to be living with God. There were tears and whys? and how could God let this happen? Even the nuns cried. Even the priests.
My friend Katherine sent me an Easter card last week. "At this lovely Easter season, there's a joy we all can feel. As we sense our Father's presence in a way that's deep and real. We find Him in each flower, His warmth is in the sun. And twilight brings his peacefulness, when every day is done."
And it's true, every word, sometimes. But because faith wavers. Because the flowers and the sun and the earth brimming with life cannot replace the son who was here last Easter, but not now.
Jesus was good and selfless, and he fed the hungry and healed the sick, and still he wound up nailed to a cross.
But the cross is not the end. It may look it and feel it. But it isn't.
That's what we believe, not easily and not always, and maybe not even today.
But sometimes. We feel the sun at our back. We hold a new baby. We hug an old friend.
Our faith is restored. And for a while, anyway, we believe.
Beverly Beckham can be reached at email@example.com.