Easter has always been my second-favorite holiday (behind Christmas, of course!). There are probably a few reasons for this, the most obvious being that I was born on Easter. It was also Tax Day, but Easter is understandably the one that I most often claim.
Then there is the reality of growing up in the South in a very traditional church where Easter Sunday dresses were a THING. A big thing. I am not really a girly-girl, but there was something about that frilly or lace-bedecked dress, sometimes even a hat, that made the day feel very special.
And, of course, there were the Easter baskets. My mom always did such a lovely job with these. I think she intentionally wanted to elevate the day in our minds as kids, and it definitely worked on me.
Since Easter was already one of my favorite days, the year I was to turn 11 years old held even more promise. That’s because this would be the first year since my birth that Easter and my birthday would once again meet. It was going to be a huge day of celebrating with family and friends.
Instead, that day turned out to be one of the most heartbreaking days of my childhood. My best friend who lived next door had basically shared her grandparents with me for as long as I can remember. I never met either of my grandfathers, both of whom died before I was born, so her grandfather, whom we all called PawPaw, was a very special person in my life. And that day, Easter Sunday 1990, PawPaw met Jesus.
Suddenly the day that was supposed to be all about light, all about LIFE, was devastatingly dark.
I have no idea what my 11-year-old heart and mind thought at the time, other than just feeling heartbroken. But I doubt I was able to make much sense of this tension, this death encroaching on life, when it was supposed to be the day that life was victorious over the grave.
It wouldn’t be the last time I wrestled with this tension either. Four days after September 11, 2001, my husband and I promised each other forever in front of our family and friends—at least the ones who were able to travel to get to our wedding when air travel resumed.
I had no idea how to celebrate our new beginning when our entire nation was experiencing such deep pain. There’s no handbook for processing the bittersweet reality that is life on planet earth.
Or, maybe there is. Because the one thing I keep coming back to, year after year of celebrating Easter, is that while Easter means that Jesus is alive, it doesn’t mean that pain, suffering, or even death have disappeared from our lives. It does mean, though, that we have a risen Savior who is with us as we walk through that pain, suffering, and even death.
His defeat over the grave shows us that while pain and death are real, they aren’t the end of the story. And while we will have to live in the “here and now” with the tension of life and death, of joy and pain, of celebration and mourning… one day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, NIV)