Reflections on Easter Weekend

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Two weekends before Easter, I stood with 500 others at a funeral for my friend’s husband. The death had been sudden. Totally unexpected. We gathered to mourn with his widow, children, and grandchildren, while celebrating his life and his Lord. So many lives had been touched during the last third of his life he had lived following Jesus.

The weekend before Easter, my family celebrated together at the marriage of my niece and her groom. Love beamed from the couple, surrounded by their friends and family with much good food, laughter, dancing, and reminiscing. The joy of that day will long be in our memories.

Sadness. Grief. Tears. Laughter. Celebration. Hope for the future. I was exhausted from this range of emotions as Holy Week began. Slowly I began to see how Easter had been mirrored in these recent events, helping to prepare my heart to worship.

Our church offered a new service to observe Good Friday this year. Songs and scripture focused on Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, followed by an opportunity to take communion, creating a meaningful, but sober, time of personal reflection.

Easter Sunday we sang loudly with a crowd of other believers of our resurrected Christ, many bursting into spontaneous applause for God as His plan of salvation, His plan to defeat death and provide life eternal were praised in the lyrics. Such love! Such grace! Such joy! Someday our Groom will return for His Bride, the Church, and that celebration will be beyond our imagination.

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Unopened Presents

I thought of them again this Christmas, these two children who would be near fifty now.

More than forty years ago their family of five was returning home from Christmas shopping when they were struck by a drunk driver.  Of the five, only their mother and older sister survived, with great physical and emotional trauma. After years of recovery, healing, moving, building a new life states away, their broken family met ours.  My first child was born the same month that my father remarried, and I gained a step-mother and adult step-sister along with a daughter.  Strong women, all.

My daughter was followed the next year by our son, the first two grandchildren on my side of the family.  My step-mom’s story unfolded slowly as she talked about raising her three children as mine went through similar ages and stages.

Then she brought out the unopened presents.

We were spending our vacation visiting them, my children 4 and 5 years old playing with the few toys they had brought on the 800 mile trip.  The first box was a doll, the second a car.  Toys purchased for the son and daughter she had lost on that last shopping trip before a Christmas they never celebrated.  Boxes kept unopened all those years

Six more grandchildren followed my two, and all enjoyed the same toys when visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  A loving tribute to the children who never got to open them.

I still can’t tell the story of her opening those boxes without crying.  The lives lost at Sandy Hook so near the holidays reawakened this memory. But this is not a story of a personal loss to me, and I hesitated to write it.  Two things happened this week to change my mind.

First, the news has been full of the …celebration? as the children returned to school in Sandy Hook.  They are declaring a return to normalcy, only a few weeks after tragedy.  Tying a bow on the neatly wrapped package of news covering this awful event. That it is a necessary step, I agree.  But I don’t believe we return to normal after any tragedy.  We may create a new normal or come to accept that change is normal life.  And grieving is a long, long process.  We call such events life changing for a reason.

The second event was learning my nephew lost a friend in a car accident the morning of New Year’s eve.  They had a long distance relationship, and the news was delayed in reaching him.  He was wrapping a present to mail to her when he received the news.

These unopened presents, lives ended too soon.  Grief lives on for some throughout their lives.  We can honor their loss by remembering with them, allowing the grief and not putting such importance on returning to normal.

Most of us have never been there, anyway.