Easter Reality

IMG_1209I’m not sure why, but I was really looking forward to Easter this year.  I bought a bunch of Easter cards and sent them out to various friends and family, filled several candy dishes with chocolate eggs and other colorful candies, and even broke out my “Easter ornament tree” much earlier than I usually do.  I told my extended family that I wanted to have the after-church Easter brunch at my house this year, and looked up a few new recipes to serve. Maybe it’s the early spring we are enjoying, since it means we have flowers and beautiful budding trees everywhere I look, but in the past few weeks, I have been more than ready for a fun and festive Easter celebration.

But life doesn’t always go according to plan.  Two days ago, we got the very sad news that my son-in-law’s father passed away after a long and valiant battle against cancer.  He was a hardworking, smart and extremely kind man who was devoted to his wife and family, and his passing has left a huge hole in the lives of the many people who loved him. And somehow, celebrating anything, including Easter, didn’t seem so appropriate anymore.

Of course I knew that dispensing with my usual Easter traditions wasn’t going to lessen anyone’s grief, so I stuck with my normal routine.  I still invited my mother over to dye eggs on Easter Saturday; I still put together the usual Easter baskets for my immediate family, and I am still hosting Easter brunch, with the understanding that it is perfectly okay for my daughter and son-in-law to skip it this year.  But in many ways, it feels like nothing more than just going through the motions.

So this Easter, I am honoring the holiday mostly by remembering what a fragile gift life is, how important it is to spend time with our loved ones while we still can, and how necessary it is to reach out and support one another in our times of suffering and great personal loss.  This year, I am just concentrating on what, for me, is Easter’s true message of hope in in the midst of despair, and the enduring and ultimate power of love.

My Easter Tradition

DSC03117For me, nothing marks the passage of time quite like the holidays.  I tend to organize my year around them:  if it is fall, then I know Halloween is near, and Thanksgiving isn’t far behind.  The long dark days of early December mean Christmas is coming, the cold winter days of February mean Valentaine’s Day, and of course, spring means Easter.  When I look back over the different phases of my life, I tend to measure them not so much by my accomplishments (no surprise there, considering what passes for accomplishments in my life), but by how I celebrated the holidays.  And Easter is no exception.

When I was very young, Easter meant getting a pretty new dress, shoes and often a shiny white vinyl purse, but what I looked forward to the most was the Easter basket full of candy.  My new purse often came in very handy for smuggling a few jelly beans from my Easter basket into church, where I could enjoy them during the service as long as I wasn’t siimage20-0_0047tting next to my mother.  She had an eye for those things.  Later, as a teenager, I was part of a youth group that hosted an Easter sunrise service at a nearby lake.  I hated getting out of bed so early, but sitting with my friends, watching the sun rise over the lake on a chilly Easter morning was an experience I still treasure.  Then I had children, and the fun with Easter baskets and special Easter outfits started all over again.

Now my children are grown, and their Easter baskets are more likely to be filled with small gift cards and scratch-off lottery tickets than with candy.  I still go to church on Easter sunday, but only to the inside service that starts at a more civilized hour.  Usually, my family is all together for the holiday, but not always, and I know that is a natural part of my kids growing up and moving on with their lives.  Time marches on, and the way we celebrate holidays reflects that.

But I do have one Easter tradition that has remained constant during the years:  the annual dyeing of the Easter eggs.  I did it when I was small, sitting around the kitchen table with my cousins and my sisters; I dyed eggs when I was a teenager and single young adult; I talked my husband into dyeing eggs with me even before our children were born, and I am going to do it this year, too.  I’ve experimented with different types of dye over the years, but the basic routine has remained the same.  Everyone, including the dogs, gets an egg with their name on it, and then the remaining eggs are dyed various shades of pastel with no swirling, speckling or other such silliness allowed.IMG_5586

My daughter won’t be home for Easter this year, but we’ll still make an egg with her name on it.  This year we’ll also have one less dog to make an egg for (rest in peace, sweet Sandy), but Lucy’s egg will be in her basket on Easter morning.  I know that I can’t control the changes that time brings, and I know that the way I celebrate holidays will continue to change to reflect the current phase of my life, but as long as I can lift an egg and dip it into the cup of dye, I will do it.  Because to me, it’s important to keep a few traditions going, and dyeing eggs is what I do at Easter.