“What does ‘He is risen’ mean?” asked my 9-year old, Levi, because it was Easter weekend, and he was looking over my shoulder as I scrolled through Facebook posts about Easter and Jesus and with all due respect to the Gentiles in the room, “He is risen” doesn’t make a lot of sense – unless you are like me and research the meaning behind weird words and phrases.
“’He is risen’,” I told him, “is the King James’s version of the present perfect tense. It means that Jesus has risen and remains arisen having had reached arisen-ness. It’s old-school grammar that we don’t use anymore – like ‘The Lord is come,’ which means that the Lord has come and is still coming. Anyway, when it comes to grammar in the bible, we let go of our modern day rules.
“Let go, let God” is clearly a divine command to embrace whatever kind of funky language they used in archaic, biblical times.
Levi stared blankly at me wishing I had actually answered his question in a way he could understand. Parenting can be especially difficult when your kid wants to talk about Jesus rising, and you want to talk about grammar. “Where did he rise from?” he asked.
“So,” I said. “Some people believe that Jesus died and then he came back to life because he was no ordinary man. He was … is…the son of God … and the son of God can come back to life after he dies.”
This was a fascinating concept to him, the idea that someone could come back from the dead, and he wanted to know more about this “death loophole.” He gave it some thought and asked, “Do you have to be related to God to come back from the dead?” I told him that I thought it definitely helped.
He sat with that for a second as if he was trying to trace his lineage back to God somehow. I mean, it’s possible. According to a recent study, Jews are all 30th cousins, which means the chances are pretty high that we’re all a little bit related to Jesus, but probably not related enough to transcend from the general status of “We’re all God’s Children” to the death loophole status of “eligible to be risen.” To be honest, as 30th cousins, we probably wouldn’t even have made the invite list to Jesus’s Bar Mitzvah. I mean, beyond being very distantly related, Mary & Joseph did not have the cash to host a big party. They couldn’t even afford a crib for a bed let alone an event venue.
I could see that the finality of death was weighing heavily on his mind, so I decided to offer a bit of hope as an alternative.
“In some religions,” I said, “people believe in reincarnation – that we die and then we are reborn as another person or animal and in each life you correct the mistakes you made in the past or learn lessons about life that you didn’t learn the last time. And then life never really ends.”
Even though I don’t believe in reincarnation, I’ve often considered my possible previous lives and whether or not this life is a punishment or reward for my past. If this is a step up, for example, I may have once been an awful man who treated women like objects and had a foul mouth and a juvenile sense of humor. And he was definitely homophobic even though he had experimented with anal in college.
And just as it seemed that he would never be anything more than a useless douchebag, he did something really selfless like sacrificing his life to push a small child out of the way of an oncoming bus. And right after that bus flattened him into the pavement, he was reborn as a lesbian – a foul-mouthed, dirty-joke telling lesbian who occasionally pawed at women without repercussions and who could experiment with anal without being hypocritical – if she wanted.
Levi embraced this happy philosophy that he would keep coming back to life and he thought about who he might be next time around. “Maybe,” he said, “I’ll be a dog who gets to go out on walks and play in the dirt all the time and pee on trees.”
“Well,” I said, “if that sounds like a better life than this one, I hope you come back as a dog, too.”
And then he added, “And we’d all be a happy dog family together!” What I realized at that moment was that death is difficult to accept not only because of its finality but because it’s devastating to imagine leaving all the people you love behind. No matter what kind of crap is going on in the world or how much you may have lost your faith in humanity; there is nothing more gratifying and life affirming than the power of love. A force from above, if you will.
“Yes,” I said, “we will all be a happy dog family together.”
I left it there. I didn’t need to tell him that even if we are reincarnated, the chances were slim that we’d be reincarnated into the same animal family – especially when I am not as keen to come back as a puppy when I much prefer the company of pussies. That said, if I could live another lifetime with my family, I’d be a dog.
Cause when I die, and they lay me to rest, I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best, and if that place is with my reincarnated dog family, so be it.