Tag Archives: Holidays

Easter Revisited

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.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

A Trip Down Memory Lane……On Memorial Day

Today, my parents and I shared a nice day. For quite a long time my dad had been wanting to ride over to the area where he grew up near Murphy, in Cherokee County, North Carolina.  It’s about 2 hours away, but he doesn’t really drive that far anymore, just mostly around town here.  It was a holiday weekend, we had no plans (and besides, yesterday was his 75th birthday), and I thought it would be a nice time to do something a little different and make that trip.

We started out around 11 a.m., stopped and picked up some chicken dinners to go, and rode over to the Deep Creek area in the town of Bryson City….about 35 or 40 minutes from home. They were having a Memorial Day festival so the normally lazy little Southern town was full of hustle and bustle. I noticed new restaurants had opened. There were booths set up selling various crafts and items. The train depot was spruced up for the Smoky Mountain Railway. We made our way past downtown to the the Deep Creek recreation area….home of trails and hikers, waterfalls, campers, picnickers, horseback riders, people watchers, and tubing down the cold waters on what turned out to a very hot late-May day.  We ate lunch and took a little walk, and I took a few pictures, then we got back in the car and headed on down the road through the Nantahala Gorge, famous for its whitewater rafting, stopped briefly for a couple of more pictures, then through Andrews and on to the Tomotla and Murphy area.

The area has changed a lot since I was a kid and we would visit my grandparents. The old 2-lane road has been replaced by a 4-lane one, and the rough gravel road that my grandparents lived on is now paved and has a campground at the beginning of it. It’s beautiful country, a wide valley built up around a river called, appropriately, the Valley River, with steep mountains to the sides. The old swinging bridge is still there – I remember crossing it with my cousin many years ago and feeling a little queasy even though it’s not too high or too long, but stretches precariously and nauseatingly across the river. My dad said that’s how they used to walk to school, and several times a year heavy rainstorms would wash the swinging bridge away and it would have to be repaired. My grandparents’ old house, where my dad and his 9 brothers and sisters grew up on a farm, raising tobacco, gardening, and raising animals for eggs, milk, and meat, looked pretty delapidated. I could hardly believe it was the same house. It’s kind of sad to see that happen and know that people still live in there, what you could see of it through all the wild overgrowth. Some of the other property inherited by the children has been sold and developed with attractive new homes. It’s truly a beautiful place and I realize now that when I was younger visiting over there I just didn’t appreciate the natural beauty of it. There are things I remember about my grandparents’ house – drinking cold water out of a long-handled pail, an old butter churn, the steep steps down to the concrete cellar, my first kitten, chickens that would be all around your feet when you went up to the door.  I loved sitting out on the front porch in the swing, playing with all the cats that were on the property, and eating my grandma’s special chocolate oatmeal boiled cookies.  She even let me help make them and that was the first recipe I remember being given especially for me. The thing I hated the absolute most?  Whole fresh milk!  By the way, I still don’t like milk to this day.  I would drink down the whole fat little glass of milk in one long gulp just to get rid of it, holding my nose the whole time, so then I could drink water or maybe even homemade grape juice if I was lucky.  I remember helping clean off the big table after a meal and my grandmother saving even the tiniest bite of beans or corn in a little dish in the corner cabinet for the next meal.  She didn’t waste anything and I understand that.  They were hard workers and raised a big and thriving family in some hard times.

We then went by a couple of houses where my aunts and uncles had lived, now occupied by strangers, then to the church and cemetery where my grandparents and several of my aunts and uncles are buried. It has been a long time since I had been to that church and I hadn’t even seen some of the gravesites before. The cemetery was as neat as a pin and really pretty and peaceful. Every grave had fresh and colorful flowers. You could tell this is a place well loved and cared for. My dad wrote down the birthdays and death dates of all his relatives on an old envelope he found in the car. He tried to get in the church – it was locked. I just think churches should keep their doors open like they did when I was a kid for people who need it, but sadly times have changed and it just isn’t realistic any more.  The old cinder blocks had been replaced with white siding and the doors painted bright red. It was really a picturesque scene, that little country church and cemetery, all bright and shiny in the sunlight, full of whites and reds and yellows. I took pictures of all the graves.  I think it meant a lot to my dad to spend some time there, and he wrote down the information about where you could make a donation to help with upkeep for the cemetery.

After that, we went on through the town of Murphy, which has grown a bit since I was last through it, and stopped for a brief visit with a couple of my first cousins, sisters who live next door to each other, settled back on their property next to their own home place after living and working for many years down in Atlanta. We sat on the covered front porch and enjoyed a wonderful breeze, just talking and laughing and catching up a bit. It was fun.  I hadn’t seen them in a long time.

Being a person who always likes to return home by a different route if possible, we continued on down to Hayesville and then back past Lake Chatuge, across Chunky Gal Mountain (I love that name), past Standing Indian and where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road, to the town of Franklin, where we stopped for dinner, and then back home.

My dad really enjoyed his trip, remembering lots of things about his family as he grew up – there are only four of them alive now – and I learned some new things about my relatives I didn’t know. I think it has bothered him a little bit that I haven’t been closer to his family. Today, I regretted that myself. Sometimes fairly simple things, like this trip, mean so much and can bring a lot of pleasure to someone’s life. I’m glad I could do my part to give my dad a good day. It was another one of those long days that’s a little tiring, but totally and wonderfully satisfying.

~Sharon

copyright (c) 2006 by Raindrop Ridge Press