March 30, 2013


By Ann Hostetler, professor of English
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (NRSV)

On this Saturday before Easter we remember that Jesus’s body lay in a tomb, subject to decay. Yet as we prepare for tomorrow, we know that when Jesus’s disciples and friends came to visit him in the tomb, they discovered that the stone had been rolled away. As we say farewell to our loved ones in this world, we may experience the holy moments when the body leaves the soul, as well as the grief of sitting with the body they have left behind. Yet we can also sense through grief the release and joy they must feel in their transition to a new state of being, because the scripture has given us these words: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”


When I enter your room
for the last time, I see a shell—
broken—your head thrown back,
mouth open—as though something
has hatched and taken flight.

Just this morning I rubbed
your ankles with oil, but now
your legs are stiff to the touch,
purple stains pool under tissue paper skin
as capillary walls give way,

the process of return
beginning. At the hospital entrance,
I met the women weeping—
mother, sister, niece, pastor—
who tell me the story of your last

breath, which I imagine now—
my sister plays
her violin—Cast thy Burden
Upon the Lord—and after days
of uphill breathing your face reflects

a moment of sheer delight—Christ
We Do All Adore Thee. I carry
this story with me like a garment.
Each time I tell it the circle widens
as with the telling of another

story, an empty tomb,
the stone rolled away,
and nothing to fill
the empty space
but language.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (NRSV)
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.



Comments (18)

  1. Ann,

    Thanks for your words this morning. I found the words true that it was a holy moment to be with Heidi when her body left her soul, as well as the time we spent with her body steeped in grief, relief and mystery just after. The words of the poem are moving. Thanks!
    Jan Siemens

    Jan Siemens March 30, 2013 |
  2. Ahhhh, an exquisite word on Holy Saturday from a poet……feeding my heart and soul

    Joan March 30, 2013 |
  3. Found all of the devotions for this Lenten season very helpful, especially this particular one. Any chance of getting the author of the poems name? Shalom

    Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer March 30, 2013 |
    • Rev. Greer, Ann Hostetler was the author of this devotion and poem. -Jodi Beyeler, devotions editor

      Devotions editor March 30, 2013 |
    • Dear Rev. Greer — Thank you for your kind words. The poem is by Ann Hostetler.

      Ann Hostetler March 30, 2013 |
      • Thanks to all who commented. I appreciate knowing that the meditation and the poem was meaningful to you.

        Ann Hostetler March 30, 2013 |
  4. Gripping, powerful, beautiful word picture. Thanks, I’ll save it.

    Ruth March 30, 2013 |
  5. Dear Ann,

    This poem brought tears to my eyes once again. But the timing is perfect.Not only is it the day before Easter, but I just got word that a retired colleague has passed away. Reading this poem puts me in the zone where it will be easier to contact his adult daughter and to share her grief.


    Laura Hostetler March 30, 2013 |
  6. Thank you for the thought of how Jesus was obedient to his Father our Father!!!!!

    Bob March 30, 2013 |
  7. This was especially powerful for me since I just lost my grandmother at the beginning of the month. One day in Christ we all will be made alive!

    Leanna Teodosio March 30, 2013 |
  8. Thank you for your perfect retelling of my experience.

    charlotte March 30, 2013 |
  9. Your telling the story of death is so beautifully done. It puts all the emotions of death and loss within a context of Presence of the Holy yet moves us into the joy awaiting. I love the image of sheer delight you speak ofl. Thank you so much!

    Marie Stoltzfus March 30, 2013 |
  10. I cannot say it better than the last person….”Thank you for the perfect retelling of my experience.”
    Thank you.

    Laura March 30, 2013 |
  11. Holy moments…grief…release…joy…transfiguration. Thank you, thank you for your healing and hopeful words, Ann. Your poem is stunningly beautiful.

    Joyce March 30, 2013 |
  12. Thank you, Ann, for a beautiful poem and very helpful meditation.

    Mary Jo Short March 30, 2013 |
  13. My brother, racing home by plane, burst into tears on the plane at the same time my dad breathed his last. All the while, I prayed that he would arrive in time to say a last good bye to my dad. As he arrived at home, saying, ” He died, didn’t he?” I realized my prayer had been answered. I carry this story with me like a garment to ease the loss of dad with the hope of reunion.

    Julie March 31, 2013 |
  14. so beautiful. thank you. will keep this for the days that are ahead.

    Diana Thomas March 31, 2013 |
  15. A perfect and beautiful capstone to all the the Lenten meditations. Thank you, Ann, for the lovely poem.

    Martha Helmuth March 31, 2013 |