I don’t really celebrate Easter. It’s not a holiday that really has a secular value when you’re too old to get excited about the Easter Bunny bringing you an Easter basket. I try to get excited about Easter, but it just doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I want to say it’s because Mike died the day before Easter–which, in 2001, was on April 15th–but I’m sure it has more to do with the fact that my grandma E died that same year–in February–and she was the only person left on the planet with which I had any emotional connection about Easter. Maybe it’s the combination of losing both people that year. Easter festivities pretty much fizzled out for my family after that and we’ve really never picked up another Easter routine.
My grandma E was a devout–but non-judgmental and not pushy–Lutheran. More to the point, she really loved the holidays. She had a tender, giving heart and no matter what her financial situation was, she gave us a million presents for Christmas and a fully stocked Easter basket. Most of her gifts were ceramics that she had painted, little knickknacks purchased at bargain stores, and t-shirts or sweaters she thought we’d like. The ceramics she made tended to have particular significance to what she knew about you. The ceramics she made for me were little girls with blonde hair (the color of my hair when I was a kid) in purple (my favorite color) dresses or cats or little blonde girls in purple dresses holding cats. You knew that everything she made for you was especially made thinking of you; even if I and my female cousins got the same ceramic, each one looked different based on the receiver’s preferences. Grandma E remembered everything–the books you liked, your favorite colors, your birthday, your favorite sports teams.
She always made homemade chocolate. Especially on Easter. Our personalized Easter baskets (which were macromaed in yarn of our favorite colors) contained one chocolate bunny, little filled chocolate eggs, and chocolate-covered nuts of every variety. I never ate my chocolate bunny. I tried and tried, but I just have always felt bad about eating something that looked just like the animal. I’m no vegetarian, but if a cow were plopped on my plate in full form, I’d probably be unable to eat it. Even though I know a chocolate bunny is not a real bunny, I just could never get past the sad feeling I had whenever I munched on the ears… and moved down to the head and face… To this day, I still can’t eat a chocolate bunny. It makes me feel bad.
We didn’t celebrate Easter in 2001. We had fully intended to. Mike was supposed to fly out-of-town for work that day, but I’d made plans to go to my parents’ house to meet up with the family. I remember talking to my mom on the phone about it, as I remember everything about that last weekend. I was on the way to an indoor soccer game with my friends. It must have been Good Friday, I realize now; Mike and I lived a secular life and didn’t really recognize the holiday or the days leading up to it. I still remember, sitting in the passenger seat of Mike’s car. We were on the turnpike, headed east, for my game. My last moments with him. Every second of that last weekend is etched in my head.
My mom had called to ask me to come to dinner at their place for Easter. It was still going on, despite Grandma E’s death, and maybe one of my cousins would be there too. My mom, an ardent atheist, kept calling it an “equinox celebration” or a “celebration of spring.” I remember feeling blue that Mike wouldn’t be able to attend.
Mike’s death the following day kind of threw all thoughts of Easter out of my head. The day that actually was Easter was filled with confusion and family bunked in my house. Unanswered questions about what had happened. We wouldn’t learn those answers for months until the autopsy report came back. I always wondered why it takes so long to analyze that data. Why I had to spend Easter 2001 in utter confusion and despair, not even knowing why my energetic 32-year old husband had died. Some days, I still wonder if the explanation I was giving two months later was the real truth. Cardiomyopathy. Was it really conclusive? Maybe he just died. Maybe I’ll never really know why.
I don’t know who celebrated Easter that year. I’m thinking that not even my most Christian friends did. Or if they did, maybe they sat in church with the thoughts of other untimely death on their mind. Unlike Jesus, my husband was not resurrected. He didn’t rise from his tomb to affirm to us that there is a greater power out there somewhere that loves us all. The doubting Thomases stayed doubting Thomas. Mike’s heart was his Judas.
Maybe I still have issues with Easter that make me unable to celebrate it. I didn’t think the holiday itself bothered me because it moves to a different date every year. 2006 (April 16) and 2009 (April 12) came closest to the day he died–. Ironically, Easter was on April 14th (the day he died) in 1968, the year he was born. (I just looked it up, I didn’t know this off-hand.) Ironic? The next time Easter is on April 15th will be 2063… I’ll be 88. Will I live to see return of the tragic Easter in which I lost my husband? It’s possible. I wonder if that anniversary will run chills down my spine. Or maybe I’ll have forgotten.
I am celebrating Easter in a small way by going to my parents’ house for a barbeque tomorrow. It’s not much and I kind of hope no one brings up the fact that it’s Easter. This year, I chose to attempt to make my own traditions by attending a Passover Seder at my church last night. It was nice to think about a different religious tradition than the one I grew up in because I previously have had no association to Passover. But I learned something. And I think in the reflection of enslavement–and remembering those in the world who are currently enslaved–I was able to think outside of my own experience for an evening. Despite the sorrows that I often let weigh me down, I’m free. I’m living a relatively good life. There are people in the world who have more to worry about than a diabetic cat, a dead husband, and a long-loved grandma. I can eat every night. I have shelter over my head. I can make my own decisions. I need to remember that that is enough to be blessed.
I need to remember, even in my darkest moments, that what I had with Mike was something that some people never get to experience in their lifetime. Though brief, I should wonder at the blessing of having had it. I also need to remember that I’m loved by a great many people. My grandparents on both sides of the family shaped the person I am today. I was blessed to have experienced the love from both sets of grandparents all the way into my legal adulthood. I’m blessed to have parents who have always taken care of me and continue to take care of me, when I need it, as an adult. In the darkest moments of life, family, and a good community like the people in my church, may be all that I have. And that’s enough to live a good life. A blessed life.