On March 23, 2008, my Grandma Nina passed away. It was Easter Sunday. Rodger got the phone call early that morning as I was getting ready for church. My parents had left town just a day or two before, as they had gotten the call that things were not going well. Even though my grandma had been sick and in the hospital for a while at this point, I was still caught off guard by her death at age 92. You never think your grandparents are going to die.
Rodger and I debated what to do. There was no reason to leave town until funeral services had been planned so we decided to go ahead with our plans for the day since it was Easter … our oldest son’s first Easter at that. So we got ready and went to church. When we got home, we helped our baby boy discover the goodies in his Easter basket. Then we spent the afternoon traveling between my other grandparent’s house and my in-laws, celebrating the day.
It was certainly a different day then we had planned. There was no traditional Easter brunch with my family and no traditional bunny cake for dessert. Easter was put on hold for many in my family and the rest of us continued with whatever plans we were able to, although they were marred by the sadness of what had happened. I couldn’t get my grandma out of my mind, or my dad and the sorrow that he must have been feeling at losing his mom. At the same time, we were joyful to celebrate our son’s first Easter and spend time with other family members who wanted to share in his special day. At the end of the day, I felt like Easter Day had been changed forever with the sadness of my grandmother’s death. I never bothered to ask my dad if he felt the same way.
The next year, Easter was almost a month later, falling in the middle of April. The sting of Easter Day didn’t seem to stick with me like I thought it would. The fact that the anniversary of my grandmother’s death happened almost four weeks prior probably had something to do with it. Another factor was that Grandma Nina died on her daughter’s birthday. My Aunt Alma passed away two years before my grandma. While it was hard to celebrate Easter on the day of my grandma’s death, I soon learned that it wasn’t Easter Day that would be hard; it would be the date of March 23 … the day of my Aunt’s birthday and Grandma’s death.
Kyleigh was born into Jesus’ arms on Maundy Thursday of 2012. Maundy Thursday is the day before Jesus’ crucifixion, the day of the Last Supper. It was April 5th. We went into the hospital on Thursday expecting to be home for Easter Sunday three days later. Instead, we spent the next four days in the hospital, not going home until late the next Monday night. I spent Easter Sunday in a hospital bed crying my eyes out. Rodger got up so early in the morning to drive home for Sunrise Service that the nurses were worried about him driving while being so tired. He assured them that he would be okay, as he had promised our son that he would take him to the early morning Easter service. My sister arrived at the hospital just as I awoke and sat with me until Rodger returned a few hours later. We had a few visitors throughout the day and while I’m sure the boys came to visit me, my memory does not let me remember the details of that particular visit from them.
The visit I do remember is that of my nurse and doctor. It was day three of having the same day nurse and my doctor had taken over my complete care very early on in my hospital stay. By this point, we were all spending a lot of time together. But on this day, Easter, my nurse and doctor sat at my bedside with Rodger and I for over an hour. We didn’t talk about how I was doing physically. They didn’t do any examinations or administer any medication. The four of us sat and talked about Kyleigh, Jesus and Easter. Rodger and I shared our faith and talked about whom we are as a couple and a family. We learned about our new “family” that was sitting with us. We have all agreed since that day that there is no getting rid of each other … we are forever connected by Kyleigh. We sat for over an hour talking, crying and hugging. The next morning, Pastor Megan served Rodger and I communion and shared some special words with us about what Easter meant for us that year.
That was the first Easter that I did not go to church. It was the first Easter where I didn’t color Easter eggs or eat Easter brunch. It was the hardest Easter I have ever experienced and the most meaningful at the same time. I learned a lot about myself, my faith and God. I learned a lot about love and I experienced the love of God through the words and actions of others on Easter last year … my husband who took our four year old boy to Sunrise Service … my sister who sat with me and consoled me … a nurse and doctor who opened their hearts to me … family and friends who came to visit … hugs and kisses from my little boys … powerful words about Easter from a dear friend.
This year, Easter weekend falls just a week before Kyleigh’s first birthday. I am writing this on Maundy Thursday, the day last year that I was in labor. We have decided to keep Easter low key this year. We are going to Sunrise Service as a family and beyond that, we don’t really know what we are doing. A decision will be made when it has to be made. The emotions and memories from last year have started to flood our minds and we just don’t know what we will be able to handle. Plus, we are anticipating the next week to be a hard one as we prepare for Kyleigh’s birthday. While we are preparing things physically, I’m not sure we can prepare emotionally.
One question that keeps entering my mind … Will Easter always be a struggle? Is it only because it falls so closely to Kyleigh’s birthday this year? Or will Easter weekend bring back a flood of emotions every year because of Kyleigh’s death happening during such a Holy time?
At some point, Kyleigh’s birthday falls on Easter itself … 2015, I already looked it up. April 5, 2015, her 3rd birthday. My guess is that Easter will always have a little bit of a sting to it, but it also holds a much bigger meaning than ever before. The Resurrection of Jesus is not about fancy dresses and expensive lunches. It’s not about baskets full of candy or a fictional bunny hiding eggs. The Resurrection of Jesus is about the assurance that someday I will see Kyleigh again. Someday, I will hold my baby girl on Easter Sunday and experience the joy that she is experiencing right now at this very moment.