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Nancy Becker's Blog

The Promise of Easter is very meaningful for my family this year. As many of you know our beloved daughter Laura died very suddenly of an embolism to the heart at her home in Marietta, Georgia last month. She left a deeply grieving family including her husband and two beautiful young adult daughters who are our precious granddaughters. Because she lived in Georgia for the past 25 years, few of our church friends knew her personally. Yet, the outpouring of love and sympathy from our church family has been a great comfort to all of us.

Probably everyone deals with grief in their own way and in ways that fit their understanding of life and death and faith. In God’s time grief can lead us to seek understanding in how others have faced such tragedy. In my Bible reading I found an occasion of grief at the death of a loved one that was comforting to me. The account is in the Book of Acts, which grew out of the Easter event, the resurrection of Jesus.

In Chapter 9 of Acts, Luke tells about the death of a woman named Tabitha who lived in the town of Joppa, a harbor town on the Mediterranean Sea which is today called the city of Jaffa near Tel Aviv. It is at a time when the followers of Jesus were living in the afterglow of the news of the resurrection.

After Tabitha’s death the women who had been her friends gathered around her, deep in sorrow - - seeking ways to comfort each other - - filled with feelings of disbelief and denial. There are some pretty common responses to death. At first, the mind refuses to absorb the fact: “She can’t be dead. Not Tabitha. How can that be? Just the other day we sat together and talked. No, she can’t be dead.” But soon the reality begins to settle in.

Luke, the author of Acts, tells us some details about the importance of Tabitha to her friends and her community. He tells us that she is a disciple and that her name, Tabitha, means Dorcas. Both names mean “gazelle” in two languages: Tabitha means gazelle in Aramaic and Dorcas means gazelle in Greek. Perhaps she was graceful and beautiful like a gazelle. Perhaps she was bilingual. Luke also tells us that she practiced many good works and acts of charity.

Emerging from these scant details is a graceful, generous woman, a follower of Jesus Christ, living in a cosmopolitan city and a gifted seamstress.

When Peter arrived he found the women of the community gathered around Tabitha’s body showing each other various garments that Tabitha had made for them. As the women wept they spoke of Tabitha’s work: “look at this cloak. She wove it for me last winter.” “Look at the fine needlework in this gown Tabitha made for my daughter’s wedding.” The stories flowed around the room. Stories of spinning and weaving and sewing wrapped up with the spinnings and weavings and sewings of the women’s lives.

In the process of grief, one of the hardest things to finally give up is the clothing of the loved one. It holds scents and memories and touch that have become precious.

When Peter arrived, these Christian women had already released the power of life into the room, because when they touched these garments, they touched more than a piece of cloth. They touched the creations of the life of one dear to them. Touching the clothes, Tabitha’s community touched the fabric of their existence. They restored their connection with the lovely, graceful, creative, generous woman they had known.

In the many layers of meaning that this passage of Scripture holds is the promise that grief has meaning and that grief has an end. When the women brought out the woven works of their life together, the Risen Christ was with them, the Christ who had lived in this woman Tabitha, the Christ who lived in Peter. The Christ by whose power Peter said “Tabitha, get up!” And she did.

We all have to deal with death and grief. It comes to all of us and all people in all times. On that first Easter morning, when Mary and the women came to the tomb they were grieving deeply. When they entered the tomb they discovered that the woven grave clothes of Jesus had been gently folded up. John in his gospel made a point of telling us that little detail.

The grave cloth had probably been woven and sewn by someone who loved Jesus, perhaps one of the women who had come to the tomb to prepare Jesus for burial. In the invisible moment of the resurrection, to which no one was a witness, the grave cloth was treated gently, with respect.

Because Christ went to the cross willingly and endured death and - - -to everyone’s surprise - - overcame death, all of those who follow him are woven together in the great tapestry of the kingdom of God, in a life that has no end. Thank you, God!

Nancy Becker

Parish Associate


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