Saturday, 4 April 2015

A red tulip, an Easter song, and an innocence found

1974. Huddled together in the shade of an overgrown juniper hedge; protected by the close proximity of their home, a boy and his older sister slowly and methodically scraped away the soil to excavate a crude grave. Not too deep - just deep enough to lay down the now deceased. After covering it so nothing of its temporal body was exposed, the boy's sister gently etched a picture of a cross in the dirt of the newly formed mound with the tip of her finger. Following a moment of silence, his sister began to somberly sing the mournful words of a famous hymn.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

A sniffle from the boy, then a tear, then crying - a crying that only a mother's trained ear could detect above the sound of vacuum cleaner nearing its own last day.
"Denise!" "Stop it! You're making him cry!", yelled my Mom from an open window.
And there it was - my first encounter with death and sadness and tears.
No - our beloved pet cat, George, hadn't died. He had been blessed with 10 lives.

I. Cried. Over. A. Dead. Red. Tulip.

That's all it was - a dead, red tulip! But, Denise captured the moment perfectly and she unknowingly preyed on my innocent understanding of life, death, and everything in between.

Nearing the grand age of 8, she was more worldly than my 5 plus years of life had afforded me. She knew 'the dust to dust' speech, the 'til we meet again' song, the reverent moment of silence, the imagery of the cross, the way around a songbook...she knew lots about life. And she knew how to make me cry.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

It all came together that day. My Oma Gerrits had died earlier that year; Easter had been celebrated a few weeks before; Denise just learned the words to an Easter hymn, and tulips were dying all around. It was providential perfection! Time for a funeral. All that was needed was a little weeping...and it didn't take long for the tear ducts to take their queue!

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

I'm often reminded of that May day of '74 and our innocent play whenever I hear that song. Sometimes my eyes fill with tears as I think of those close to me who have died. But it's only momentary sadness, because I'm quickly reminded of the joy that awaits when we will be reunited. Our separation is only for a short time. We have the rest of eternity to spend our time together. (And, if you're of Dutch descent, 'tip-toeing through the tulips' might be on God's eternal itinerary.)

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Maybe, if my Mom would have allowed Denise to sing a resurrection song, the tears would have given way to laughter. Who knows? Or, maybe, we might have found something else to bury and commemorate its life. Like a daffodil, a crocus, or even the remains of a mosquito that had just met its untimely, unfortunate, and unseemly death between my hand and my knee.