After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
- Matthew 28:1-10
Upon this post coming out, yesterday would mark the first Easter after my wife died. It will be the many of many firsts to remember what I lost, but when I look at the first Easter together, it was mostly not together.
I worked at a chemical plant. I was in the computer applications division of the company and on that Easter, I was one of only two engineers in the department. The chemical plant made ethylene glycol, a car’s antifreeze, and propylene glycol, the antifreeze that is not poisonous. The main ingredient in making ethylene glycol is ethylene oxide, used in things like torpedoes because it can explode underwater.
The problem that first Easter together was that the plant was having a major overhaul of its ethylene oxide plants, three of them. The process was a catalytic process that worked above the explosive range. The wrong amount of catalyst with the wrong temperature and pressure and the plant would blow up, killing everyone within most of the plant and maybe people in the town next to it.
The plan was to slowly pump the new revitalized catalyst from the holding tank into the process one little bit at a time. But when the truck with the holding tank arrived, they saw a little problem. The tank was basically a tank wagon, a horizontal bullet tank with two domed ends on either side. To make it worse, we did not even know how thick the tank was. We could only measure the outside dimensions and the depth of the liquid inside. The rest was guesswork – on a process that if done wrong many people would die.
The plant manager told the head of the computer group that we were responsible. In everyone in the room hearing what was at stake, the boss turned around and said, “Rackley, if you have never taken a class in Solid Geometry, I hope you can learn fast. You’re our man!” I had done great in Geometry in high school, but as the teacher ended the school year, she said, “And now you know Geometry, but Solid Geometry is something for another day. If you are interested, it is not easy.”
Setting the tank on its end, vertically, made everything simple, but on its side, as the level in the tank changed (a cylinder, resting on its side, with domed ends that were not half spheres – this added for you solid geometry folks out there), the amount of volume that was pumped into the process would change. Larger volume with each inch and then smaller volume once you passed halfway. And the domes on either side were variable with each truck that came in with the next load of catalyst. I had to measure, measure again, and again, and then recalculate how to calculate the volume change by each half inch in depth. A straight cylinder was bad enough, but the domes made it hard. And always with “people could die” in my mind.
On that first Easter, just weeks after my wife and I had been married, we awoke to go to the sunrise worship service. We had practiced since before we got married as part of the church choir. As we were getting dressed, the phone rang. “Mr. Rackley, we got a new tank of catalyst, and it is the funkiest thing we ever saw. We are halfway into the process. We cannot slow down without the risk of an explosion. You have to drop everything and figure this stupid thing out!” They hung up without saying, “Lives are at stake.”
My wife of just a few weeks cried. If something went wrong, I would be at the plant when everything went “boom.” I kissed her good-bye, having quickly changed to work clothing.
Besides the domes on either end being different. There was a dome within a dome. Why? I have no idea, but although it only added a few extra gallons, it complicated my calculations.
I worked quickly and devised a plan on how to compute everything. I ran the computer runs for my calculations and presented the maintenance team with the information less than a half hour before it was needed. Yes, like God’s timing, sometimes the saving lives thing is “just in time.” I checked my watch and decided to call my wife. This was long before cellphones. She said that she was just about to go to her parent’s house, and I could meet her there. We had supper at their house and played Liverpool Rummy, her mother’s favorite game. Or was her mother’s favorite game Wahoo? Okay, her favorite card game.
At supper, my sisters-in-law asked why my clothing had a funky smell to it. I just told them that I had to reprogram the computer to calculate the volume of a stinky substance. They didn’t need to know that people’s lives had been at stake.
I think this Easter Sunday might be less eventful.
I hope you had a Happy Easter.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
I’m thinking it will too, Mark. Trusting you had a blessed Easter Sunday.
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Yes, as expected quite different, but it was a blessed weekend.
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