My husband Doug just got back from a "storytelling camp" in Florida. Like always, I asked him who he met and what stories he heard. Like always, he was filled to the top with people's stories.
One story, in particular, struck me. A woman told how she had worked as a nurse in Alaska. One night, on her way to her car after a late shift, someone struck her several times from behind. She fell to the ground and noticed that she was unable to turn herself over. Lying in the cold and the dark, her only thought was, "I am dying."
She woke up in a hospital and was told that she had been stabbed 12 times by the assailant she had not seen. Her entire right side was paralyzed, one lung was collapsed, and she would not be able to walk again for a long time, if ever.
Doug said that the remarkable thing about this woman's story is that, unbelievably, she has enjoyed life more since the stabbing than she did before. It's not that she's happier walking with a cane (previously she had run marathons and travelled the world). She's not glad to be living on a meager disability allowance rather than doing the nursing work she loved.
The difference is that she had expected to die that night. She almost did die. Police suspect that her unknown attacker was responsible for 12 other night attacks on nurses in various communities. But she was the only one they were able to interview: all 12 died on the ground before even being taken to a hospital.
Somehow, the woman's closeness to death woke her up to the miracle of being alive. She is now filled nearly constantly with the joy of knowing that, against all odds, she is alive yet another day. She breathes and walks with pain, but she feels so lucky to breathe and walk. Doug says that he saw her weep as she told her story, but her habitual expression was a broad smile of joy.
She is not glad, she says, that she was attacked. But she wouldn't trade what she has learned, for anything. Anything in the world.
Her story reminds me of us as we travel through April. This month, the month of Easter and resurrection, we experience with Jesus the horrors of crucifixion and death. On Easter morning, we take part in the miracle of resurrection and rebirth.
But it's too easy to NOT learn the lesson. To keep living in the long descent to the tomb, rather than in amazement at the rock that was, against all odds, rolled away. To live in a post-resurrection world, but not to live a post-resurrection life.
In April, our world is waking up to spring. The mountain snows melt, the waters begin to flow, the buds unfurl as the warmth of the sun grows ever stronger.
Will we wake up, along with it? Will we keep noticing that, amazingly, we smelled another spring breeze this morning? Will we enjoy the infinite gifts of life? Will be able to say, along with a nurse from Alaska, that we suffered the tomb with Jesus. And yet, we value what we learned from it - not academic learning, but learning how to live - above all else in this world of miracles?