It’s around noon on Easter Sunday. I’m at my kitchen table with a Bloody Mary waiting for my beloved Carrot Souffle to come out of the oven. In an hour or so, I’ll be sitting around my parents’ dining room table, blessed to still have both my mom and dad. My brother and his wife will be there, and happily, this year I’ll be joined by my son, my youngest daughter and my boyfriend (which still always feels weird to say at the age of 45…) My older daughter is in another state with her grandma, having her own Easter.
I’ve been thinking all morning about the ways my parents’ dining room table has changed over the past 20 years or so. About the way it is different every year, every holiday. I’m thinking of all the times there were both empty seats and a full kids table. All the memories. The silent tears and heartaches around the table. The laughs. The new life. The new people who have only passed through and those who have stayed. At some point or another, almost all of us were either widowed, divorced, or sat there with and without our kids. We’ve mourned spouses, grandparents, and kids and babies who should be here.
It’s amazing to me. Life is amazing to me. The way families and relationships and life changes over the years. There are years I sat at that table afraid to speak or I would cry. Years I drank a little too much so I didn’t have to think about being the lone single person there, with or without my kids. Life is just so fragile and so beautiful and I see it so clearly around the dining room table.
I don’t know what Easter means to you, but on this Easter Sunday, I think about how Sunday always comes. Historically speaking, Good Friday was the darkest day in human history. And Saturday– the time and space between Friday and Sunday– seemed dark. So very dark. Sad. Quiet. Hopeless. And as if it would last forever.
But Sunday came. It did. Somehow, Sunday always comes. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not how we ever pictured it, Sunday comes. And in its own way, it is new and beautiful and it is okay. I feel grateful today. Sunday is here. It is hardly what I pictured. But there will be eating and drinking and laughing and celebrating. It is sunny and new and somehow, it’s still going to be beautiful.
It’s Easter week, Peeps. Jellybeans. Chocolate. Jesus. Food. I’m Italian and Polish so it’s an ethnic fantasy of food. Something about this week has always felt special to me. There is an anticipation in my heart that feels sort of tender and raw as I think about the significance of Easter that is hard to explain. It’s different than Christmas. I’m not a huge Christmas fan. Christmas requires preparation that makes it feel like a part-time job for me and admittedly, I can never quite get entirely out of my own way to make it different. Easter holds none of this for me.
Tomorrow we will make our annual trip to Broadway Market- a Buffalo landmark for all things food, culture, and this week, Easter. I’ll make my girls get a picture with the Easter Bunny. We’ll color eggs. Make some candy. If we say it once, we’ll say it ten times that it’s the best ham or rye bread we’ve ever had. I think back to the people and places I’ve shared Easter with. Polish sausage with my Lithuanian and Polish grandmother. Easter Pizza and Pineapple Ricotta cake with my Italian grandmother. Years spent around my parents’ dining room table wherein my mom so beautifully and gracefully combines the best of these traditions. I think of Easters in Virginia where a best friend and I would Easter shop and then stuff and hide eggs late into the night–over tired and silly–making memories for ourselves and our kids. I think of Easters spent on Fort Riley, Kansas. Sunrise Easter morning service. Church potluck breakfast. An egg hunt. My little boy in a pastel plaid tie and my baby girl in a hat and bloomers. The ultimate small town celebration. Always smiling faces. Full tummies. Happy hearts.
And Jesus. I think, of course, of Jesus. Growing up, on Good Friday afternoon, we were made to play quietly and respect the hours during which Jesus was thought to be crucified. I suppose we probably hated being stifled that way–and yet as a grown woman, I’ve replaced it with watching The Passion of the Christ. It, too, is not a fun activity. I do not look forward to it. There is no popcorn. And yet I sit with rapt attention, knowing what my eyes are about to take in and how it will pierce and hurt my heart. Because I already know this story inside out, backward and forward. But I want to watch. I need to watch. I need to see and feel and be brutally reminded of my Savior’s love. The lengths to which this unstoppable love drove Him. For me. For this life I continually call my messy closet. I think of Mary. I think of her mother’s heart and it’s almost too much to bear. And so I watch because I forget. I’m ashamed to say just how very quickly, quickly I forget. I’m so much quicker to question. To doubt. To wonder. To shake my head, shake my fist, let my wild heart be shaken than I ever am to remember the cross. And I need to be reminded of how the story ends. The anticipation that builds in my heart as the movie is coming to a close. There is brutality. There is fear. There is death. There is grief. But then. Ahhhh then. It is glorious. He is glorious. He is whole. He is resurrected. And He wins. Jesus wins. Life wins. Love wins. Life conquers death and love wins. May my heart remember, there is life after death. And love wins.