Part One of what I tried to say in church:
This past Lent I carried a little brown rabbit in my pocket every day.
I named him Tuga, the Bosnian word for sorrow. His purpose was to remind me of the season, of the pain in this world, even when we can’t see it because it is hidden in a person’s heart — or in a pocket.
Tuga had come to me as part of a set. The other rabbit, a white one, I named Aleluja, a word we aren’t supposed to say during Lent. I hid Aleluja on Ash Wednesday, planning to bring him out again on Easter Sunday.
So Tuga was my companion for 40 days.
Often I would reach down to pat my pocket and feel the hard corners of his ears, reminding myself that he was there — and why he was there. Or I would put my hand in my pocket and turn him over and over, like a fidget toy.
You see, in 2014, in the early hours of the morning on Ash Wednesday, my oldest brother, Stewart, died of a heart attack. I went through the Lenten season that year feeling numb. Everywhere I went, I saw people talking and laughing, but I felt like my heart had, at least temporarily, turned to stone.
For me, the anniversary of Stewart’s death isn’t a specific date. It’s Ash Wednesday.
Tuga, in 2017, reminded me of that Lent.
When I was packing to go to Bosnia some months later, trying to choose only the barest of essentials because I needed to fit two weeks worth of stuff into one backpack, at the last minute, I grabbed Tuga and Aleluja off the shelf in my bedroom where they had been since Easter Sunday.
While some people worried that it would be risky to travel there, I wasn’t afraid. I was going to a place that had been scarred by war. Tuga would remind that the people I would meet bore scars — but those scars may be hidden in their hearts.
(Tune in for part two tomorrow.)