A few months after my mother died, my youngest son and I were driving home from the grocery store in her van when it started to rain. It wasn’t a terrible downpour, but a light mist that makes a dusty windshield smear and causes drivers to reach for the windshield wiper fluid feature on their steering columns. I reached for mine as well…but I couldn’t find it.
I wasn’t all that surprised. In the 11 years my mother owned the vehicle, I could not recall her driving it in the rain. I’m sure she did but as she aged, she was less than confident in her driving skills and only tended to go out when it was 75 and sunny. After fumbling for a few minutes to try and find it, I gave up. I turned on the wipers squinted through the smears and made my way home where I promptly forgot all about it.
That night, I had the strangest dream. I dreamed my mother and I were in the van when out of nowhere; she reached out and activated the very feature I’d been trying unsuccessfully to find only the day before.
“How did you do that?” I asked her.
She turned to me and gave me an amused grin. It was as if I was dreaming in high-definition. She looked like the best version of herself: leukemia free, radiant and happier than I’d seen her in years. “I never showed you how to do that before?” she replied.
I shook my head as she demonstrated the feature again. She never told me exactly what to do or where to find it but the next day, as I was driving my son to school, I remembered the dream. I reached out where my mom had in the dream and found a hidden button. The washer fluid sprayed out like a geyser and my son was delighted. “You did it!” He exclaimed. “How did you find it?”
“Grandma showed me where it was in my dream last night,” I told him simply. I knew how insane I sounded, but it was the only explanation I had.
“Oh come on,” he laughed. “You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?”
I didn’t know how to answer him. On the one hand, I could appreciate his cynicism. It’s pretty hard to believe that my deceased mother would make an appearance just to show me how to work the windshield wiper fluid on her car. She hadn’t shown up to answer my tax questions, help me make decisions about her estate or provide me with the phone number of her lawn care guy, but on the other hand, I know what I experienced: I didn’t know where the button was and in my dream, she showed me. Rationally speaking, I suppose it is possible that my brain filtered through all of the information and gave me the answer I needed in a narrative that made sense, but maybe, just maybe something else was at work and I got a rare look at my mother in her new form. I would like to believe it was the latter, but I appreciate the skepticism of those, like my son, who see it differently.
I don’t pretend to know what happened in the days following that first Easter morning, but if I had not seen the risen Christ with my own eyes, I probably would have been among the doubting near-dozen. In fact, if there is one part of the Easter narrative I struggle with, it is the moment in today’s gospel in which Jesus takes His followers to task for their lack of faith. What did He honestly expect? These people saw what happened. They know people cannot come back to life. Jesus was not a guy in a coma. He was crucified. You don’t just bounce back from something like that. They saw His death with their own eyes and now they were expected to believe He was alive again? Personally, I think Jesus could have cut them a little bit of slack. The idea of someone seeing the risen Christ must have seemed as silly to them as the idea of my mom showing me how to operate her van did to my son.
Faith comes easier to some than it does to others, but when it comes…nothing shakes our story. Sometimes seeing means believing and sometimes the most real things in life are those things we cannot see. Cynicism and disbelief isn’t exactly a sin, it’s a character flaw of being human. Still, when we wash away the dirt that blocks our view, we look through that windshield and see the road ahead: a road that leads straight to Christ. Through Him, our ideas become realities; our experiences become our testimony and sometimes, our dreams are proof positive that there is more to life than meets the eye.
Today’s readings for Mass: Acts 4:13-21; PS 118:1 AND 14-15AB, 16-18, 19-21; MK 16: 9-15