Five years ago on Good Friday, my family traveled to the loading dock of United Airlines in San Francisco to pick up our dear Casey at the airport for the final time.
Since Casey joined the Army in May of 2000, all of his trips home were greatly anticipated and the trips to the airport were always joy-filled. Every time I fly into Sacramento airport and go down the escalator near baggage claim I am reminded of the last time he came home as an upright, living being and I spotted him on that same escalator and the huge hug we gave each other. I can still feel his arms around me, squeezing me tightly. I hope I never forget that.
But five years ago, on “Good” Friday, the trip was not joyous. Our diminished family of five rode in the back of the mortuary’s limo with Casey’s maternal grandma, my mom, his auntie, my sister, and some close family friends. There was a car following us with more close family friends. Tears are running down my face just thinking about it.
When we arrived at the United Airlines loading dock, there was no honor guard, no respect for the soldier who was already being lauded as a “hero.” There were not even any chairs for our family to sit and wait. We literally had to sit on a curb to wait for Casey’s remains, which took at least 45 minutes. We had to wait for the one soldier that the Army sent who rode in the passenger compartment (of course) while Casey rode in the baggage area in his coffin covered by a cardboard box like he was a case of pineapples, or something.
Good Friday in the Christian tradition is when Jesus of Nazareth was executed by the evil empire of the time with the encouragement of the religious extremist government that ruled that part of the empire. The Jesus of the Christian scriptures was perceived as a threat to that power structure.
I was already a lapsing Catholic by the time Casey was killed on Palm Sunday in Iraq. But, in Catholic tradition, Good Friday is a very solemn occasion with meaningful symbolism: the tearing of the cloth in the temple, the closing of the tomb, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” While the congregation dutifully, and with mostly monotone boredom, intones: “Crucify him.” The implication there being that we are constantly crucifying Jesus with the sins and our sinful nature.
However, after Good Friday, we just have to wait one more day for Jesus to rise from the dead. It is like a movie that we watch once a year (Wizard of Oz comes to mind): we are scared when we see the flying monkeys, but we have the secret, tingling anticipation, because we know Dorothy will kill the Wicked Witch and she and her friends will have their fondest desires fulfilled.
Easter: The day of prettily decorated eggs, yummy candy, new clothes and accessories, mandatory church and Easter dinner. Being in the pretty church festooned with lillies and the priests wearing their finest albs with all of your friends wearing their Easter finest makes up for the monotony of Lent. Jesus’s disciples didn’t know he was going to rise from the dead, but we do and we are ready to party and begin to partake of what we "gave up" for Lent in an orgy of gorging.
Today five US soldiers were killed in Iraq and we won’t ever know for sure how many Iraqis were killed. The families of the US soldiers will never have a “normal” Easter again. All of their days will be filled with pain and longing, but holidays, birthdays and other anniversaries will be especially hard. My heart is breaking for the awful and pointless spiral of grief that these families are just embarking upon. Some may not yet know that it was their son, father, brother, uncle, or friend that was murdered today. I saw the report of Casey’s death on the news at least five hours before the Army notified us.
There is no joy-filled day to anticipate that will make up for the horror of the needless and senseless deaths of the people who still die with Obama’s continuation and escalation of BushCo’s illegal and immoral occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
I stupidly contributed to this Empire for my entire adult life and did not protest the wars before Casey was killed. I, like Pontius Pilate, have been trying to scrub the symbolic blood off of my hands since that day. Obama and the entire administration and Congress are continually adding to their blood drenched hands everyday that these occupations continue.
Easter is also a season of renewal.
Let’s renew our commitment to peace, no matter what Imperial Figurehead is occupying the Evil Office.