The day started with an undercurrent of irritation and intolerance. I felt it all around me but still continued to push through the nagging feelings. My mind traced back to 17 years ago when my sister was buried on Good Friday and I spent Easter morning hunched over a toilet sick to my stomach with nerves and seven months pregnant. My Goodness! Has it really been 17 years since all that took place? I thought back over the past recent months and recalled the friends who have passed away and are gone. I cried a bit while brushing my teeth and getting ready for church - thinking if it would be acceptable to come up with an excuse to not attend. No reason(s) came to me.
I haven't been to church in 6 weeks. Some of the absence was due to traveling and then one Sunday I just didn't have the emotional fortitude to get ready and go. I wanted a break from the disappointments of a priest who turns my stomach and people too caught up in their own self centeredness to extend care to someone in need. It's hard to feel a spirit of worship when death and anger have a strong grip on your spirit. It's not easy being disconnected from your church family and even though I know it's temporary, I realize I have issues to reconcile within myself.
I did manage to get ready and was feeling grateful because we were running a bit ahead of schedule.....that didn't last for long because on the way to the car, Rascal (our friendly dog) escaped through the screen door while it was closing. Instead of getting more angry and chasing him....I just went out into the yard with my scissors and started cutting fresh flowers for the cross at church. Ten minutes later of waiting for him to come home was just enough time for me to be right on time. I laughed at how quickly things can change and how just powerless I felt waiting for him to come back home. I didn't want to upset my kids or pitch a fit myself but I felt the tension rising up within my spine all the way over to my temples. Powerless.....yep, that about summed it up for me.
We arrived to church a few minutes later and without the egg baskets or the 2 dozen eggs that we were supposed to bring. I had to bite my lip to keep from breaking into tears as I realized it way too late when pulling into the parking lot at church. I just wanted to deposit my kids in the nursery and find a seat and sit still. Thankfully, not one person spoke to me as I entered the building. I found a seat near the back on the left side and sought refuge in that corner. Hubby found me to say hello (he had to be at church an hour earlier so was already there) and asked where I had left the eggs and the basket. I think the look on my face gave him warning that the best thing to say was, "We can use a plastic bag and there are way more eggs than enough. It'll be OK. Just relax and know I love you." I closed my eyes and tried to breathe deeply while silently petitioning over and over, "Come Holy Spirit, Come."
I found my mind wandering again to when my older daughters were younger and how I loved Easter...especially the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. My entire church year revolved around that service and the emotions packed into those times. Hughe even spoke of those days in his letter to those who attended his funeral. I thought back to those times and felt my eyes well with tears and as I reached for a tissue, the opening hymn began. It was the same hymn that we sang all those years. "Lord, Thank You," (*that's not the hymn but what I was thinking)..... and then I became aware of the various sounds of bells ringing and just as I looked to my left out the window, I saw a ray of sunshine beaming right on the memorial garden...I heard the church bell. It rang loud and almost as if it were right in my ear....proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is Risen Today! In an instant, I was right back to that Easter Vigil experience. I closed my eyes and just listened, taking it all in deep. I thought of my friend who is dying and of all those that I love who have died recently. I felt swept away with my racing thoughts and the emotions were overwhelming as I opened my eyes and watched that ray of sunshine continue to move across the garden. I wonder now how in the world could the sun have moved that fast but I don't really care. That ray was just for me. That bell rang for me. That feeling was just for me. I got the message of, "this too shall pass."
The hymn ended, the worship continued and when we finished communion, I felt a million tons lighter in my spirit. What started as a day with irritation had now been resurrected into being draped in grace and love and letting go. I felt hope instead of death.
Isn't it interesting that this is what Easter is about? (for me today, anyway) The promise of hope and renewed life? Easter is not just about dressing up in new clothes and hunting eggs and chocolate bunnies and singing Easter hymns or even ringing bells.....Its about the transcending hope that overwhelms and overpowers death. The resurrection of Christ brings a renewal of life that is fundamental to our faith.
Out of the destruction of Good Friday (all those centuries ago and up to now), out of the death of my sister and all those that I love, out of the deaths that will come, out of the disease that many deal with on a day to day basis and out of the hurt and emptiness of grief and anger and lost expectations ........comes the resurrection and new life and hope of Easter. God gives grace to those of us who are left and that grace helps us through remaining here and dealing with life. Is it always easy? Nope. Is the hope and resurrection there even when we are clouded in death? Yes.
The tomb was empty.....and so was I. But Christ is Risen and we celebrate the hope that can fill us back up and sustain us through those days and seasons that lead up to Easter.
I needed something just for me. I got just what I needed....an empty tomb and grace sufficient. Let me remember that even when my life feels like a perpetual Good Friday......every day is Easter....just for me (and you).