Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11:25-26)
Relate: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live…”
“That’s bull.” Jason thought. But then, when the preacher stopped and those closest to him turned to look in his direction, he realized that he had done more than think it. So he said it a bit louder and more clearly. “That’s bull. Carlie believed and she still looks dead to me.”
“No preacher, keep your false sympathy and your empty platitudes to yourself. It’s all bull. Believing in Jesus didn’t raise Carlie up. It didn’t protect her. Believing in Jesus is what got her killed. If she wasn’t at that worship practice she wouldn’t have been walking home that night. Where was Jesus when that drunk driver ran that red light and hit her? Couldn’t he have protected her? Couldn’t he have sobered up that drunk? Couldn’t he have raised her up then? No. I was the black sheep, she was the angel. It should have been me but no. She’s dead. And Jesus wasn’t there. He never is.”
“Jason, there’s no way for…”
“Don’t preacher man. Don’t. Just… shut up.”
Jason turned and stormed away from the crowd gathered there at Carlie’s grave and made a beeline for his car. The soft weeping from his mom and a few others followed him for a bit as well as the preacher’s voice as he did his best to recover his sermon and continue on. It was a beautiful summer day but Jason saw none of it. It was all he could do to continue walking in a straight line as the tears streamed down his face and blurred his vision. Even once he got to his car it took him a few minutes to recover and gather himself up enough to be able to drive home.
He remained up in his room for the hour or so while everyone else went through the traditional graveside service and reception. Jason did text his dad when he first got home so that no one would come looking for him but then he just lay on his bed staring at the ceiling thinking of everything and nothing. He was still up there when the others came home. At some point someone knocked on his door but he blew them off with a grunt. Slowly the other guests and well wishers left and silence once took over the house. Still Jason lay on his bed, numb to the world. It was edging into the early hours of the morning when he finally got up to go use the bathroom.
On his way back he stopped in the hall in front of Carlie’s room. This room was off limits by threat of death when she was still alive but nothing stopped him from going in now that she was gone. One wall was almost completely covered in pictures and Jason stopped and studied each of these in turn. Some were new to him but many others brought back a trove of memories. There was far more life in these pictures than there had been in that shell of a body he had seen earlier. Slowly Jason drifted from one side of the collection to the other until he noticed an open Bible on her desk containing a short handwritten letter. He knew he shouldn’t do it even as he picked up the letter and began to read.
“Dear God, Here I am again, asking You for my brother, Jason. I know, I know, it seems like this is all I am ever coming to You about but You said to keep on asking and it will be given. So I’m asking again. God, what will it take? I’ve said everything I know to say. I know I’m not perfect but I have done my best to show him Your love. What will it take? What more can I do? You know that I would give anything to see my little brother come to know You. Even my life…”
Jason read no further as the letter slipped from his hands and drifted to the floor. He had to steady himself as a wave of grief threatened to overwhelm him. He picked that letter up and returned it to its place before closing her Bible and retreating from her room. He had to get out. He just had to go.
He was two blocks down the street before Jason even realized where he was headed. Three blocks further down and then a right. A short distance ahead he could see the corner of Cyprus and North streets where it had happened. He could see the intersection where Carlie had been killed. He could also see that he was not alone. There was a rock wall separating the sidewalk from the yard right near that corner and another man, in his late forties was sitting there at that corner. The man looked as if he hadn’t shaved in a week and there were dark bags under his blood shot eyes. It was the driver.
Jason was hesitant to get any closer but it was clear that this man had taken no notice of him. The poor guy was lost in his own grief and seemed to be idly playing with something in his lap. When Jason got a bit closer he saw that it was a six shooter. Part of him wished that the man would take that old colt, put it in his mouth and pull the trigger. But another part of him was afraid that this was exactly what the man was thinking of doing. Reluctantly, he walked up and sat down next to the man.
After a few minutes of silence Jason asked, “Can’t sleep.”
The guy next to him didn’t even look up. “Man, you have no idea.”
“I do. She was my sister.”
That pulled the guy up short. He looked over at Jason but then dropped his head again. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He said over and over again as silent sobs heaved his entire body.
“She’s not dead.” Jason wasn’t sure exactly what he was saying but he just felt like he had to try and say something. As he sat next to the man, he realized that their places could easily have been switched. Jason was only seventeen but already he had been on the road once or twice with a few too many in him. This guy didn’t plan on killing someone when he was driving home that night. As his anger and bitterness began to wash away, Jason said it again, “She’s not dead. She is where she always wanted to be. If she could be here now I bet she would turn and say thank you. All you did was get her a ticket to heaven a lot quicker than she could have hoped.”
The words sounded a bit shallow in his own ears but apparently it was exactly what the man next to him needed to hear. For a while they sat there in silence but then the man flipped open the chamber and one by one the bullets dropped from the gun into his hand. When the gun was empty he reached over and handed those bullets to Jason. “Thank you” the man said in his gravelly voice as he got up and walked away.
React: After the other man left, Jason sat there a few more moments alone before getting up and starting home himself. He rolled two of those bullets in his hand as he aimlessly walked down the sidewalk. It slowly began to dawn on him that what he had said to that man, he actually believed. Those words that he had thrown back at that preacher might actually be true. Though she were dead, yet shall she live. Carlie was still alive. It wasn’t just a sentiment that she was alive in our memories. Somewhere, somehow, she had conquered death.
It took a while but eventually Jason ended back up on his own front porch. There was a swinging chair there and he sat on it looking out as the horizon to the east slowly began to brighten. He was tired of running. He was done. It was time to face the music.
Respond: “God” he prayed. “You’re real. I know it. I guess I’ve always known it even if I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for running from You. I don’t know why Carlie had to die. I don’t know why You had to let her go out like that but I do know where she is now. She might be dead to us but not to You. Carlie wrote you that letter. She said she was willing to die if that was what it took for me to come to You. if that is what this is all about then I don’t want her death to be for nothing. I want to know You like she knew You. When its my turn to die, I want to be where she is. I want to live again like I know she is living now. For whatever it’s worth, God, I’m Yours.”
Jason leaned back in his chair as the sun broke over the horizon and peace wrapped around him like a blanket.