My mother called me yesterday and asked me if I was going to host Easter this year. I could hear the hope in her voice, which made it even harder to remind her that no, I wasn’t going to able to do that. I told her that we were all going to have to celebrate Easter in our own homes this year, and wait to get together when the “shelter at home” orders are finally lifted. To her credit, she told me that was just fine and quickly changed the subject. But I know that my answer hurt her.
Mom always enjoys family gatherings and holiday celebrations, and she was especially looking forward to Easter this year. She’s been talking about it for a couple of months, ever since she heard that my out-of-town sister and her family were planning to come for Easter. Mom was thrilled at the thought of having all three of her daughters and their families together to celebrate the holiday, but of course that was before the spread of the Covid-19 virus resulted in massive shutdowns and stay at home orders. My sister cancelled her visit and I cancelled my plans to host our family gathering. So this year, Mom is going to be celebrating Easter all by herself: no family meals, no attending church services, and no watching her great-grandson hunt for Easter eggs.
I know that thousands of people are suffering far greater losses and disappointments than my mother. I know that this virus has claimed too many lives and cost too many people their livelihood. But the last thing I’m going to do is to point that out to my mother, or to tell that she has no right to feel disappointed or sad. She has every right to feel her emotions and every right to mourn her loss, even if other people are mourning much greater ones. Grief isn’t a contest, and if we never allowed ourselves to feel sad because other people have bigger troubles, we’d never be allowed to feel sad at all. Which is just plain ridiculous.
Honestly, I admire the way my mother is handling the situation. This may not be the Easter celebration she wanted, but it’s the Easter celebration she’s getting, and she’s accepted that. (Which is what often happens once we allow ourselves to actually feel our emotions rather than feel guilty for having them.) She knows that she we can’t safely visit her in the retirement center right now, and that it isn’t safe for her to come to our house and risk being exposed to the virus and worse, spreading it to the other senior citizens who live in her building. But she also tells me often that she knows she made the right choice in moving to the retirement center and that they take excellent care of her there.
We may not be physically together this year, but I can still drop off an Easter basket at her retirement center and there will be Easter services and concerts she can enjoy on TV. I’ll call her on Easter and I’m sure the rest of our family will too, which will make her feel much less alone. We may not be able to celebrate in our traditional way, but we will still celebrate and we will still connect with each other. Which means that ultimately, my mother was right. Easter really is going to be “just fine.”