My dad had shoulder surgery a few days before Easter, and I flew to Illinois to take care of him. On Easter Sunday, I woke up around dawn and peeked out my bedroom window to see pastel streaks appearing on the horizon, announcing the soon-to-be-rising sun.
My brother and sister-in-law were visiting with their three children. So “Grandma” and “Aunt Sarah” made them pancakes and bacon and chocolate milk and played with them so their parents could get a little extra sleep.
After breakfast we got them dressed in the Easter finery — my little niece in her flowing dress, sandals and matching hat. My little nephews in slacks, collared shirts, bow ties and fedoras. And then they all headed to church with my mom.
Most Easters, I go to church, too — usually to an Episcopal church where the rectors are dressed in white robes, sunshine spills through stained glass windows, the smell of incense fills the chapel and the choir hits glorious high notes that echo across the vaulted ceiling.
But this year, I spent Easter Sunday morning in my pajamas at home so I could care for my dad.
I applied ice to his shoulder and gave him his pain medication. We talked theology for a while, until he nodded off to sleep.
I tidied up the playroom, made beds and washed the breakfast dishes.
Then I streamed Pandora as I prepared the meal my mom has made every Easter dinner since I can remember — ham loaf, pineapple stuffing, cheesy baked potatoes, salad, green beans, asparagus and warm bread.
As I cooked, I listened to songs about the resurrection.
I’m Alive, I’m Alive Because He Lives…
You Gave Your Life To Give Me Mine…
Death Could Not Hold Him, The Grave Could Not Keep Him…
The Great Divide He Crossed For Me…O Praise The God of Calvary….
Because You’re Alive, I Live…
It was a different experience of Easter, standing in an Illinois kitchen in my slippers instead of in a sunny California chapel in heels.
Softly singing the resurrection story to myself instead of listening to a choir sing it to me.
Administering the sacraments of pain pills and tea to my dad in lieu of consecrated bread and wine.
Witnessing the sunrise from my small bedroom window instead of sweeping panes of stained glass.
And yet — and this is what strikes me most as I look back on last Sunday — the resurrection showed up in beautiful ways.
The aroma of baking bread, the joy of sharing a meal with family, the blooming lilacs in the back yard, the giggles of my nephews, the laughs and squeals of my niece as we ran through the grass in our bare feet.
Even when we had to say goodbye at the end of the day, the resurrection was still there, reminding me that we can always have hope, because Love always comes again.
I flew back to California the day after Easter, and went back to work in the clinic. The week was long. I ended up having to work more hours than I’d anticipated. My heart sank as I listened to patients and friends tell me difficult stories.
On Sunday, I was tired. It took everything I had to get out of bed and walk to church, but I did it.
I was greeted with warm hugs and How Are You!?’s
I listened to the rector’s message about Divine Love — the spring that never ends and, in spite of the fact that we’re 2000 years downstream of the resurrection, never runs dry.
We danced to the communion table.
I cupped my hands and whispered, “Amen” as I received a morsel of consecrated bread.
The body of Christ, broken for you.
Then sipped from a chalice of wine.
The blood of Christ, spilled for you.
The rector prayed a blessing over us, and then, as we do each Sunday, we raised our voices and loudly cried, “Thanks Be To God!” And the words hung in the air like incense.
As I walked home, I remembered that according to the liturgical calendar, Easter Sunday isn’t the end; it’s the beginning.
Easter Sunday marks the start of the Easter season — a season where we get to experience and express the truth of the resurrection. We get to live with hope instead of despair because the death and resurrection of Jesus proves that, no matter the depth of darkness we see, Light is always shining through.
No matter what dreams and desires die, no matter how abandoned and lonely we are, no matter how defeating and discouraging our circumstances feel, Love is always holding us in a grip that doesn’t leave, doesn’t change and doesn’t let go.
In spite of our own mortality and the mortality of those we love, there is Life that always, always, always defeats death.
Easter is not a past tense celebration; it is our present reality.
New Life appears in each beam of sunlight, in each blooming flower, in each budding branch.
Resurrection wakes us up each morning and reminds us that Christ has risen, and we are ever rising.
Love nourishes our souls in each sip of tea, each morsel of cake, each stalk of asparagus, and in every glass of cool, clean water.
Faith fills us with inexplicable joy in spite of all the pain we feel and see.
Hope whispers to us in each giggle and smile of the children we adore.
Easter is not a once-a-year high holy day. Easter is among us now, if we have the eyes to see. And every day, in ways big and small, we remind ourselves and each other that, in the words of the saints,
We are people of the resurrection. And Hallelujah is our song.