Late last November, I stood over a frozen mound of soil in my garden, holding a long wooden stake. Beside me on the snow-crusted ground lay several blue mesh bags full of garlic bulbs, each tied with a curl of white ribbon – the kind for wrapping gifts.
And the bags were a gift, from a young woman and her family who’d joined mine for Thanksgiving. The garlic – German White – had been grown by the young woman’s grandmother, who before her death, a month or so earlier, had run a farm. I imagine her silver-haired, bending over a garden row to harvest the bulbs on their long stalks before hanging them to dry in a lofty barn.
My mother also ran a farm. Even though she’s been gone eight long years, I miss her daily, the way I miss my daughter, Ruth, who would have turned 19 this Easter but left us three years before my mom. Grief, it seems, is a pit that has no bottom. And yet somehow, those of us who’ve felt the whiplash jolt of losing a loved one must find a way to lift our faces to face each new day, to breathe fresh air deep into our lungs, to go on digging and planting and harvesting.
Which is why under ash-gray skies on that bitter fall day, I pierced the ground with the pointed tip of a stake to make a cave-like grave in the soil. Inside I set a single clove of garlic before plunging my stake into the ground several inches away to make another hole and planting another clove, and so on, until I’d emptied two or three whole bags. As I buried each clove with my winter-bit hands, I wondered what – if anything – would appear, come spring.
I’d never planted garlic before. Knew only that it was done in the dark of fall vs. the soft light of spring. Worried I might’ve been too late. Or the ground too cold. Or the garden too damp over the long, icy winter. But last week, when I swung open the gate and bent my silvering head over the rich brown soil, a fresh green shoot pointed promisingly toward the sun. A few inches away, I saw another. And another. And another.
This is the promise of spring, the hope of Easter: that after death, comes resurrection. And what we bury comes to life again.
Or as the apostle Paul wrote, “And if the Spirit of God, who raised up Jesus from the dead, lives in you, he will make your dying bodies live again after you die, by means of this same Holy Spirit living within you” (Romans 8: 11, TLB).
And so, dangling over death’s dark pit, I cling to this hope, waiting for that eternal spring.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith. Connect at www.meadowrue.com