Easter brings memories of joyful celebrations, chocolate bunnies, gorgeous liturgies. And in 2003, it brought sadness.

In the same week we were to close on a second home in Florida we planned to retire to, my Mom was called home to her eternal life with Jesus. After writing a ceremony for the crematorium, and burying my mother’s cremains with my five siblings and Dad, my husband and I drove from Chicago to Florida for Easter. It was our first Easter in Destin. Little did we know that 2000 people show up for Easter Mass at a church that holds maybe 600.

We stood outside among the palm trees and palmettos, pressed on all sides by hundreds of others. A speaker projected the sounds of the Mass outside to us, but where we stood, people were carrying on conversations. It was hard to concentrate on praying. We could not join in the songs without the words or songsheets. I didn’t feel like singing anyway.

I desperately needed to feel the joy

and solace of that Mass. Perhaps as deeply as Mary Magdalene wanted to find Jesus’ body and anoint it as her last service to him. Only she couldn’t seem to find him. She had to be frustrated, a little like my family and I when we couldn’t get into the church on Easter.

Tears streamed down my face. I knew my mother had lived a holy life and was at peace with Our Lord. Was it so much to ask to be able to sing the Alleluia and see the consecration at Mass on Easter just weeks after she died?

holy communion outdoors photo

Photo by Karen Roe

On Easter was it too much to ask

the people in the bushes with me to close their mouths and pray in silence?Most of the crowd left after receiving Holy Communion. They had a long walk to their cars and had fulfilled their “Easter obligation.” My husband, two children and I finally could enter the church and find seats for the final hymn. My heart sighed in gratitude as I sat down.

Photo by x1klima grief photoAnother wave of grief poured over me. I kept reaching for joy. I kept thanking Jesus for his redeeming love and sacrifice. My heart remained heavy and sad. Like Mary Magdalene. I offered him my sufferings and prayed for my mother.

Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

John 11:25

I held two weights — life and death — within me. The joy of Easter. The death of my mother. Is that not the essence of our faith? Holding onto the Light of the world when we walk through darkness? Feeling our pains, anguish, and grief while we cling to the promise of new life? It was an Easter I shall not forget.

Mom and Dad

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