“The waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty
“Seriously, if you love me at all, just put me in a drug-induced coma and wake me when it’s over.” – Me
It’s Holy Saturday, otherwise known as The Day When Nothing Happened. It gets lost amid all the flashier days of Holy Week but it is the day I can relate to the most.
Palm Sunday was so much fun, wasn’t it? All fabulous pomp and circumstance, and weren’t they lucky to have such perfect weather? The Facebook photos would have made me swoon. I would have been so jealous of Mary, for sure – man, her kid isn’t riding the Struggle Bus, he’s riding a donkey in his own parade, for God’s sake. He’s so popular, and accomplished; there they are at the Ivy League graduation. I heard he’s got a really good job. Wow. What a family. Palm Sunday is a victory celebration: a bunch of Instagram photos and Facebook posts that should make me feel joyous but honestly, might just make me feel jealous, depending mostly on how things are going for me at the time.
Then on Thursday, the Real Disciples of Jerusalem got together for dinner, and – this happens on the Real Housewives all the time – it was Jesus’ event, and he had to invite everyone for the stuff to go down that had to go down to make it a Show. He was really bummed out, having just wrapped His mind around the diagnosis, so all of the Real Disciples were just trying to be there with Him, trying to make it nice. And then Judas – one of the the Housewives always does this – went up to him at the event and acted like they were all buddy buddy but then turned around and totally sold him out. Broke up with him, their whole, long friendship down the tubes, when He was already going through a hard time and everything and are you kidding me?? I have nothing in common with the Housewives, and not as much with Jesus as I would like, but I do know about broken trust, lost friendship, that most awful feeling of betrayal. People doing what they will do and being who they are and you being left to deal with the fallout.
Good Friday, as we know, is poorly named; it is Awful Friday, which in my family is the Friday afternoon that my daughter lay unconscious in a helicopter bound for Hopkins Pediatric Trauma ER while I sat nearby, having tearfully but successfully begged the flight nurse to please, please, let me get on, too. I am an ICU nurse, I will be fine, I promise, I beg, I just need to be with her if she dies. Please. Good – or Awful – Friday is a day of tragedy, but tragedy in real-time can be surreal, and you can somehow hold it together in the midst of it because your kid – your family – needs you to. You grab your your husband by the shoulders in the middle of the road while they are trying to get an IV line in your unresponsive 9 year old and, in the midst of the horror show, you know that you have to say that no matter what happens, this cannot be the moment that tears your family apart. And you both promise each other that, and then he manages somehow to get in his car and keep it together enough to make the long drive all by himself, not knowing what’s happening on the chopper. There is no time, on Awful Friday, to wonder how in the hell this can be happening. You are too busy Momming-up, you are in the zone. You are way too busy Just Doing It to think of anything at all.
It’s waking up Saturday that is the hardest, the moment when everything becomes real. As the comfort of sleep leaves you, you awaken, in the deep darkness of the night or the improbable light of morning, to the sudden realization that it’s true, whatever the tragedy is, however far the fall from those beautiful Facebook pictures on Sunday. The beginning of days – perhaps many, many days – of “salt water facials”, the daily tears that fall over your face and into your ears the second that you are awake, that you remember that you really do have cancer, or that whatever it is has actually happened, that it was not a dream. The young, handsome man smiling broadly, his family at his side, just the other day – it is impossible that he could now be gone. The sting of betrayal of a close friend, feeling like an actual injury in those first days; how can there be no visible scar? The first, disoriented moments waking on hard chairs in the ICU waiting room – wait….where am I? Oh, God. Oh, God, that’s right. I remember.
And it is on Saturday that nothing really happens. We don’t get any closer to knowing the end of the story. I mean, all of us know, now, which makes modern-day Holy Saturday so forgettable, a day that it’s ok to do some Easter basket shopping, make that bunny cake. For the first time in days, there is no tragedy to be acknowledged and commemorated. We’re a little relieved. But imagine what it was like when no one knew how it was all going to turn out.
This, to me, is so much of life. The waiting. The moment – the victory, the award, the recognition, the graduation – feels a million miles in our rear view mirror. Who even cares now? What difference did it make? The dust is still settling on the losses, the schrapnel is flying, and we don’t know which way it’s going to go. All we can do is wait, which for, many of us, is the hardest part. We wait for time to pass; we wait, because we have not other choice, to see how the story is going to end. The adrenaline has faded, leaving us shaky and anxious and exhausted. We wonder – and maybe we scream, HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?, and also how we could have been so wrong about everything, and how it can ever be ok again. We wish someone could just knock us out until it is all over.
There are no smiling on Facebook posts from our Saturday, while we wait. We find there only other people’s tragic Fridays, which make us feel even sadder, and a little guilty, and other people’s smiling Sundays, which leave us feeling lonely and maybe even a little bit jealous. We are all alone in the Saturday. All we can do is hunker down as we shake our heads, try to pull it back together, and wait for the promise to be revealed.
But something happens in the waiting. It happens so slowly, you can easily miss it, but things get better, one way or another. Maybe they are never quite the same, but we don’t stay in Awful Friday; we heal, somehow, in Saturday, even though all the while it looks like nothing is happening. We don’t go all the way back, we are never exactly the same, but miles below the smooth Saturday surface of the water, where no one can see, tectonic plates of pain and grief shift, bit by immeasurable bit. And one day, we find ourselves back, in the celebration, in the joy, ours the changed but smiling faces.
Sunday, my friends, is coming. Hang in.