It’s Easter Saturday, traditionally a day for mourning and quiet meditation. I notice the lack of traffic outside in the village and a deep sense of calm in the house this morning. I’m more or less up-to-date with work, there’s nowhere I need to go, and I have time to reflect.
Even though I’m not religious in any orthodox sense, I’m thinking about Chris today and pondering on life and death. I lie in bed and leaf through a favourite book: Time and Myth by theologian John S Dunne. Subtitled A Meditation on Storytelling as an Exploration of Life and Death, it looks beyond the Bible to world literature to consider what it might mean for something to remain after our death.
Dunne examines great stories like Gilgamesh and The Odyssey, and the work of writers such as Dante, Melville, Dostoevsky, Kazantzakis, Camus, Kierkegaard, Freud and Jung, and concludes:
“If something does remain, it is because [wo]man does not merely live and die. It is because [wo]man has a relationship to life and death. If something does remain, it is the life of the spirit.”
That relationship to life and death, says Dunne, is expressed through the stories we construct to give our lives meaning. We cannot change the stories of our life (in the sense that we cannot change what actually happened) but we can change our relationship to those stories.
Chris changed her relationship to the story of her life, when she claimed the identity of Artist. She lives on, not so much through the various products of her art, but through the inspiring example of her commitment to live and die artfully. She showed us what is possible and the knowledge of that possibility and our attempts to embody it, do remain.
So, I’m mourning Chris’s death: her physical absence. But I’m also celebrating her life and what lives on. For me, the most fruitful symbol of Easter is not the sinister, life-sized, wooden cross that has recently appeared in the village churchyard, but the Simnel cake I bought from Hobb’s Bakery in Nailsworth, for the simple reason that Chris loved cake, especially with marzipan.
It’s a kind of sacrament.
Tea and cake.