I used to say that I hate Easter all the time, but I am beginning to get over it.
My grandmother died on Easter. That was pretty bad, but the kind of thing that you can get past.
My mother died on Easter. That, for some time, has been impossible to get over.
Easter, the queen of Christian holidays, became overshadowed by the death of my mom. It wasn’t a surprise, she was sick. On Good Friday, appropriately enough, we gathered around for last rites, and goodbye. She wasn’t really with us, if you know what I mean.
Then, on Easter morning, just around sunrise, the phone awakened me. I knew what it was. Before I could get to the phone, I heard my dad’s voice on the answering machine telling me to give him a call. His voice was shaky. His voice was never shaky. I know that I called him back and had him tell me the news, although I can’t really recall it.
What I do recall, is losing my mind for a few moments. Here is what I said, to everyone and no one.
“Oh this is great….they got to the tomb where Jesus was, and Jesus wasn’t there. You knew who was there? My mother!” Odd, I know. Understand that it was said loudly, angrily. I lost a bit of myself that day, and it is taking a long time to get it all back. I am aware that I have been holding onto the bitterness, as a foolish way of keeping her present with me.
I don’t think of the date when I remember the day she died. She died on Easter.
Some years later, I lost my dad. I know the date for this, March 31. The day of his memorial service was the anniversary date of my mom’s death, it was not on Easter.
Today, I am thinking forward about their passing; Easter is right around the corner.
That’s when I discovered how “special” this year will be. March 31 is Easter. The day I lost them both. The day my three brothers and three sisters lost them both, and gave up a little too much of the glue that held us together. I am ashamed of my part in this; we were raised to be there for each other.
I am bracing myself for another sad Easter Sunday. Double barreled. Both Mom and dad.
Something else is happening though, and I can feel it. As I begin to try to brace myself for a dose of pending desperation, I am aware that I need help…and I can feel hope slipping in, to the extent that I allow it.
Long ago, they referred to the early Christians as “The Easter People”. The empty tomb is the thing that defines Christians. The resurrection of Jesus; which for us is the hope of life eternal.
Perhaps it is the passage of time that is helping. More likely it is the fact that I am reaching out for help, to the only source that can provide it. I find that I cannot hold onto the anger, and sense of loss, as the hope trickles in. It’s like there is only so much room for feelings, and I am letting the good force the bad out.
On Good Friday, at the foot of the cross, they must have all felt the way that I have for so long. Lost, angry orphaned. But then…Easter! He is not dead, He is risen.
And so are they, mom and dad; and on this Easter I will imagine them together in a special way.
This hopeful promise has always been there for me, and I turned my back to it.
This year, I am going to focus on thanks. Thanks to my parents and thanks to the risen Lord that gives me hope.
As I finish these words, my thoughts go to the words of one of my mothers favorite hymns. It’s called O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.