I’ve long believed that we come to understand the “capital R” Resurrection only through understanding “small r” resurrections—the stuff of daily life, like sun after a long stretch of rain, a restored relationship, an accident avoided, health after illness, energy after inertia, seeing a problem that seemed intractable in a positive light, starting a difficult venture late in life. A woman who suffered terrible migraines saw resurrection in the miraculous effects of the right medication, and a nurse described how a dehydrated child, when hydrated, comes alive: skin glowing, energy restored.
In that spirit, we search signs of resurrection this season that are fresh, maybe not expressed in religious language, but still filled with liveliness. The film “CODA” is one, which deserved the Academy Award for best picture. It explores a predicament some of us know little about: Ruby is the hearing child of deaf parents who struggle to make a living fishing the waters off Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Spoiler Alert: if you plan to see the movie, stop reading now!
She wants to be a singer, yet she’s desperately needed to translate for her parents. Indeed, they incur a steep fine when she’s not present on the boat. The work interferes tremendously with her sleep, her desire for extra coaching from her voice teacher, and her long-range ambition to attend music school. It’s a heavy, genuine dilemma for a teenager who struggles mightily.
The family has more Good Friday: threats to their livelihood, the taunts of others at school and in town, a concert where the parents can’t hear a thing but muster support and encouragement for their daughter. (We get a taste of their experience when the sound fades out for part of the concert and the theater becomes eerily quiet.) Another bit of education: 40% of the dialogue is in American Sign Language, and deaf actors are featured in three key roles, a movie-making first.
The scenes that most speak of resurrection are the father’s asking Ruby to sing just for him, the rapt expression on his face, and his touching her vocal chords to try to appreciate the music. Another signal comes during her audition at a prestigious music school. At first she sounds wan, but seeing her family in the balcony fills her with energy and she sings powerfully, signing the song so at least they know the words. Most joyous is the family gathered around the computer to read whether Ruby has been accepted to Berklee School of Music. One look at their faces is enough to celebrate the good news. Her non-speaking father utters only one guttural word “GO,” echoing angel voices buoyant with song.
While the film title is the acronym for Child of Deaf Adults, it could also refer to the musical term. There, “a coda is the final part of a fairly long piece of music which is added in order to finish it off in a pleasing way.” Jesus healed the deaf in a direct, earthy way because nothing human was foreign to Jesus. This film reaffirms that we’re made for the garden, not the tomb. God’s life penetrates ours, filling every dark corner with song, bringing us deep pleasure and spring beauty.