A few days ago, I celebrated 18 years as a Catholic. That means I’ve done this Good Friday thing at least 19 times.

And every year, it’s new. Every year, I rediscover it. Every year, I face different challenges and hurdles and insights.

Why does that surprise me?

It’s no different than any other facet of life: In my mothering, I find that each three-year-old is his or her own entity. In my marriage, I find that each new year reveals some new joy and trial with my spouse.

Why would Good Friday be different than the rest of my life?

Good Friday at the foot of the cross

Maybe it’s because of the novelty — still, after 18 years! — of fasting. It’s very physical, very tangible, very real in a way that just looking at a crucifix (or watching a movie) is not.

Maybe it’s because of the enormity of it.

Maybe it’s because, no matter how much I consider it, I can’t wrap my head around it.

This year, days before Good Friday, I found myself reflecting on that time we thought our five-year-old was having a stroke. Rereading those words I wrote, nine years ago, I am there.

It was the foot of the Cross in so many ways. And I wasn’t ever alone.

I’m still not alone, though I am at the foot of the Cross once again.

That’s the thing about Good Friday. The Cross is always there.

But so are the other people. The Cross is not a lonely experience. It’s communal.

We are not alone in our struggles, our sorrows.

Even as my stomach grumbles and my head aches, as I’m tempted to curl up and sleep instead of facing the things that need done, Good Friday continues.

Tomorrow night, we’ll be lighting candles and finding an empty tomb.

We know how this story ends.

And yet, that doesn’t always make it easier. That doesn’t take away the present moment.

We’re called to live in the present moment. Not in hope of tomorrow or the glory of yesterday. Not in the dread of what’s coming or the fear of what’s been.

Right now, this minute, this second.

Even in the physicality of fasting and the pain of heartbreak, there are bright blooms and cheerful faces.

It’s not a falsely optimistic approach: It’s the ultimate reality.

There are daffodils, freshly picked from an enthusiastic young hand, even as there are gouges from the nails in his hand. I kiss the Cross and offer myself, even as the birds regale me with a concert.

Without Good Friday, there is no Easter.

Mary, be a mother to me now.