Easter was a couple of weeks ago. It was a lovely family day, where on a beautiful spring afternoon, my daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughters met in Charlotte for lunch and some sweet outdoor visiting time. A couple of days later, I saw something on Facebook asking what was your most memorable Easter? so I thought about a few of mine.
For many years, my family went to the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, enjoying the big family-style Easter dinner, seeing the Easter Bunny and little girls and boys in their Easter finest gathering brightly colored, barely hidden eggs, visiting the farm animals, especially those comically adorable baby goats! When my first granddaughter was 1 or 2 years old, she participated in her first Easter egg hunt and fed the animals, giggling at their tongues licking her hand to get every last bite of corn.
One Easter I spent in Cleveland, Ohio. Dinner was homemade and delicious, including bread made by Eastern Orthodox Church women. We didn’t have lamb as I expected we would, but I was glad. Then we took a long afternoon drive out in Amish country, which was picturesque and quite charming. Lots of people must have been visiting friends and family because many buggies were on the road that day. Just as we arrived back to the house, there was a thunderstorm, and we stayed in for a cozy evening with leftovers. It was also Eastern Orthodox Easter. Though the two don’t always coincide the same week, that year they did, so at midnight, very early Easter morning, after dying eggs, we watched the darkened church across the street as its members held their candlelight procession around the church singing and chanting, before coming back to enter a lighted sanctuary and proclaim Christ is risen indeed. Religions have fascinated me most of my life.
Going back further, I spent a couple of Easters playing the baritone horn for the the Moravian church at the Easter sunrise service in Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We went to bed early, got up in the wee hours to play on the streets of neighborhoods, different bands doing this all over the city, before meeting up at Home Moravian Church for a big early breakfast and going out to the graveyard (God’s Acre) to play for the sunrise service. Even though I don’t take the Easter story literally, I still have affection for Jesus and what his story represents. Hearing the music of all the instruments playing those ancient tunes and the birds singing as the sun came up, with that proclamation heard round the world that “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed,” gave me goose bumps and was a moving experience. We then went on to play again in a small church cemetery. Easter afternoon consisted of dinner, followed by a long nap, as we were all exhausted, but happy.
This brings me to my most memorable Easter ever, and the one that makes me teary. Seven years ago, after a six-week stay in ICU, my dad passed away peacefully in a regular room (three days after taking him off the ventilator), on Easter Sunday, surrounded by his closest family. He had been in a coma almost the whole six weeks, suffering from an infection that went from his lung to his brain. There had been hope he would recover, but when the last shunt change didn’t help, we knew it was time to let him go. I read him the Easter story from his Bible. I don’t know if on some level he heard me or not. Easter morning, we took some pretty flowers from my parents’ yard to his hospital room. The doctor came in and listened to his lungs that morning and said something had changed. “I think today will be the day,” he told my mom and me. My daughters and son-in-law got there, and as if he had waited for us all to be together, which maybe he did, soon afterwards he took his last breath. It startled us, although we had been listening intently to his breathing and would hold our own breaths when it seemed it might be his last, then he would breathe again, and so would we. But this time there was no mistaking that for my dad there was no other breath to come….he turned blue almost instantly. I had never seen a person die before. We were sad, of course, and yet relieved, too, in a way. He wasn’t going to get better and none of us wanted to see him that way. It wasn’t the life he wanted, and we had each been preparing for it in our own ways already. We sat in his room for awhile, quiet, crying, then after making a few phone calls and going through some red tape, we left the hospital and went to Cracker Barrel and had Easter dinner. It is exactly what he would have wanted us to do, and I think we all felt his presence and energy there with us in some way or other. We were able to talk and laugh and share memories. The more intense sadness and reality hit later, as it usually does, when we were alone or when in doing normal everyday things, we remembered he wasn’t there. After that, we took a little walk down by the river. It was a beautiful day and a heartbreaking one. I wouldn’t trade that time with my dad as he breathed his last breath for anything. It was a precious moment and by far my most memorable Easter.
Even though I’m a Pantheist now for many years, I still consider myself religious. I love Easter and what it symbolizes, what the crucifixion and resurrection can mean even to a person who is no longer traditionally religious but carries those old rituals in their memory, part of their very being. It’s rebirth and the spring season both in the natural world, of which we’re a part, but also within ourselves. It’s about hope, and you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate those things about Easter along with all its pagan elements. People have loved symbols and rituals pretty much as long as they’ve inhabited this planet, it would seem. I have cherished memories of lots of Easters over many years, shared with special people, all held close to my heart.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press