It never ceases to amaze me the role that clothes play in my life. It’s not always a good thing, mind you. I think WAY too much about what I should wear to this event or another. This is an ongoing frustration of the woman minister in a church that doesn’t do robes: What should I wear to perform that wedding? That funeral? As I preach that sermon? As a young(er) woman in ministry, it’s also a fun game to find clothes that are somewhat fashionable while looking appropriate (showing off my cleavage isn’t exactly the look I’m going for as I visit a funeral home). Just last week when I wore a dress that was on the shorter side, I brought a “back-up” in case I got to church and decided it was too short after getting some feedback from my friend that comes early (we decided that it worked as I was wearing thick tights). I remember once trying on a suit while shopping with a friend. “This would be a good suit for funerals,” I said. The salesperson looked horrified. “I’m a pastor,” I explained to her. She looked even more horrified.
So, yes, full confession: I spend too much time on Sunday morning thinking about what I should wear. I’m not proud of this.
This week, however, there is one day that I won’t have to make this decision. This week is Holy Week, the week that as a church we remember Jesus journey to the cross. We will gather on Good Friday for a quiet service as we reflect on Jesus’ death. On that morning, I will not stare at my closet contemplating what to wear. I will not analyze skirt lengths or get my husband’s opinion on what looks nice. I will wear my Good Friday dress.
It has not been my Good Friday dress for very long. It began only a couple of years ago, on Good Friday 2013, when the dress was still new (to me). Just a few weeks before I had traveled to Newfoundland to spend the weekend with my my sister Roxanne and my other siblings. It was a significant weekend. We were gathering because Roxanne had a terminal cancer diagnosis and we wanted to enjoy a fun weekend together before she began another treatment. Now, if there’s one thing that a trip with Roxanne always involved, it was shopping. I still have not met anyone who loves to shop quite like Roxanne did. I went on that trip VOWING that I would not get sucked into buying anything. I even only brought a small carry-on suitcase to help hold myself to my convictions. But then Roxanne took us to this super-cute consignment store in St. John’s. It was full of great high-quality stuff, and I think I tried on half the store. I ended up buying a sweater, a blouse and a wrap dress (so much for the small suitcase!).
When Good Friday came a few weeks later, I put on the wrap dress I bought that day. The main reason was that it was a black checkered dress and I like to wear dark colours on Good Friday. It was an appropriate dress.
Then came Good Friday 2014. By then, my dear sister had already been dead for nearly a year. On that Good Friday, I cried as I looked at that dress. I remembered buying it with Roxanne. I remembered how she raved about it how it looked, said I simply had to get it, that I’d regret it if I didn’t. I missed her so much. I hated that we would never shop together again. I hated that that trip to that consignment store was the very last time we had ever shopped together. For a moment, I hated that dress.
And then I put it on, that Good Friday 2014.
I put it on because it is still a very appropriate Good Friday dress. It is a dress that makes me lament. It is a dress that makes me grieve. It is a dress that makes me sad to the very deepest parts of my heart. It is a dress that makes me miss my sister. It is a dress that makes me say: “I hate death.”
It is a dress that reminds me of why we need Good Friday.
Good Friday was a day of death – but a day that also meant that death would be defeated. On Good Friday we grieve and lament the death of Jesus, but we also hold on to the hope that came because of His sacrifice. Our hearts are heavy, but they are not without hope.
So I will wear again my “Good Friday dress.” I will go to our Good Friday service. I will be sad. I will remember what Jesus did. I will remember my sister. I will lament, and pray, and grieve, and hope.
Then I will come home, and I will hang that dress back up, and it will be ready again another Good Friday.
Here is my confession: I have a hard time getting rid of clothes that I bought with my sister. This is tricky, because most clothes just aren’t made to last forever anymore. My sister has been dead almost two years already. Many of the clothes I bought with her are at best out of style and at worst stink of body odor from frequent wear. Lately, I have been trying to let more of these things go. I am reminding myself that I don’t need to keep smelly old clothes to remember my sister. Yet, with each piece that I give away or cut into rags, I feel a sadness at what feels like another good-bye. I pause. I remember. Sometimes I cry. And then I let them go, and I know that it is good.
But I have no plans to let go of my Good Friday dress. Every time I see it I will remember trying it on in that little consignment store and Roxanne’s excited voice telling me I had to buy it. Every time I wear it, I will remember the pain of loss, and the gift of remembering.
As usual Roxanne was right – I am so glad that I bought that dress.
What we wear can be a way to help us honour, celebrate, or think about a significant occasion in a deeper way. Besides wearing black on Good Friday, I like to wear purple during the season of advent. I have found each of these practices meaningful. What might you wear to help you think about the significance of Good Friday and/or Easter this year?