I should not blame the men for not believing us, but I do. The story was, coldly considered, incredible, but then the last year had been equally unbelievable. Jesus. His life, his death, all unbelievable. Yet, after all we had heard and seen and gone through, the men should not have turned to us and told us we were hysterical and not to be believed.
We had done what we always do. We had taken ointments for flesh that will never heal, perfumes that we know too well the stench of death will drown. Why? But we do. We cannot help it. I remember that Jesus told somebody to leave the dead to bury the dead, but no, we could not.
It was all the more grim because of the delay. We had done the best we could for his shattered body on the Friday, but we had little more than moments.
It was the Sunday, early. If you need do terrible things, do them as soon as possible. Go as soon as you are awake, without eating. If you have not slept, that will be early, before the light starts up. Best to go before the day starts to heat up, before the body starts to decay further. Understand, we know death. We know it as an intimate enemy, even as an occasional friend, but we know how death works. And then — none of us wanted to go that near the site of the execution. Remember how close the site of the execution was to the tomb, nestled in a dog-leg of the wall.
Rolling back the stone was not a challenge to women like us. But when we got there, the city making its first stirring noises behind the wall, the light starting to wash grey gently in, the stone was already rolled back. We were, oh, worried, but then he had so many who loved him, who might be there first, and what else could we do but go in?
There was no person. There was no body. And there was the shroud, lying there. Even had somebody moved the body, they would have kept it in the shroud. We had been steeling ourselves for the unwrapping of the shroud, now, over a day later, and after a hurried committal.
I don’t know when we began to take in the shining figures. It seemed absurd afterwards that they were not the first thing we saw, but they were not. When we did see them, another kind of fear filled us.
They spoke. They asked why we would look for a living person among the dead. Our hearts filled with images our minds could not grasp. Light, and water, and dazzle. Fear transformed to awe. Awe to something so stupendous that neither mind nor heart could rise to its level. I no longer know if we dared to leave the shining figures, or if they went as silently as they came. The next thing I remember is running back to the rest, to the men.
When we burst in through the door of the house where we lodged, with the words of angels ringing in our ears, and the shining reflected in our faces, and a growing confidence in our voices, the men should have believed us. But they did not. Not then.