Even before I knew the ramifications that Easter would have on me because of my Faith, it came with lessons, and stamped my life in ways that even if I wanted to, I could never forget. Even when I have begged my mind to forget, my body could not. Tears come more readily this time of the year; hints of spring in the air are more pungent and everything beckons my heart and mind to return to Easter 1971, to be willing to walk through the pain yet again to remember the triumph of Jesus in my life.
Even some forty plus years later as I look in on my eight- year old self I wonder how my broken heart knew how to continue to beat in perfect rhythm, how my lungs dare drink in more air. How one foot knew to take the next step, putting itself in front of the other.
I can still recall the crime tape outside our home. Everything played like a slow motion silent movie as I walked out of our lawn to the neighbors, wrapped in a black wool police officer’s blanket as if I were walking into a dark tunnel that I would not immerge from for months and even years to come, knowing that life would never be the same from this moment on.
Over the years I had a unique understanding of the Easter Story – One made personal to me, because of the events of my own Easter Story – I could easily understand the events surrounding the last supper, as I recalled the events in my life leading up to Easter that year. My mom had a new boyfriend she was hopeful that life was finally going to be better. That the abuse we had all endured over the years was behind us and better days were ahead. We had spent the day shopping for Easter items coming home with a pink stuffed bunny and sweets. However, looming just under the surface was our own Judas.
In the early hours of the morning, our phone rang piercing the haunting silence of the night. On the other end, Judas spoke, asking us to go check on our mother….fear penetrated my every cell…my heart now beating so loudly that I could barely hear anything but it….my lungs fought for air as we tried to wake her, but it was to late, this too was done.
I too, knew what it was to mourn, to feel betrayal, and have a little taste of what it takes to be able to rustle with the importance of being able to forgive. Not only for what it brings to the person needing the forgiveness but also for the one needing to be released from the fear and bondage that holding onto un-forgiveness can bring.
I don’t know why God allowed my darkest earthly day to parallel with His amazing story of redemption, but the similarities of the day, don’t stop with the death of my mom that Easter Sunday morning.
My own experience is shared best through the words of a song written by John Michael Montgomery, which tells my story so brilliantly…
Her parents never took the young girl to church
Never spoke of His name
Never read her His word
Two non-believers walking lost in this world
Took their baby with them
What a sad little girl
Her daddy drank all day and mommy did drugs
Never wanted to play
Or give kisses and hugs
She’d watch the TV and sit there on the couch
While her mom fell asleep
And her daddy went out
And the drinking and the fighting
just got worse every night
Behind their couch she’d be hiding
Oh what a sad little life
And like it always does, the bad just got worse
With every slap and every curse
Until her daddy in a drunk rage one night
Used a gun on her mom and then took his life
And some people from the city took the girl far away
To a new mom and a new dad
kisses and hugs everyday
Her first day of Sunday school the teacher walked in
And a small little girl
Stared at a picture of Him
She said I know that man up there on that cross
I don’t know His name
But I know He got off
Cause He was there in my old house
and held me close to His side
As I hid there behind our couch
The night that my mama died
Over the years, I have had friends ask me why I believe what I believe, and this is why. For me, my own Easter story isn’t just about the tragedy of the day in 1971, but it is also in the triumph of that day as well. I am fully convinced that Jesus did not leave me there that day to endure the profound events by myself. I can still “see” him, feel him as he guided me through the days, months, and years that followed that dark day. He was as real as any-one on that day, and He still is.
For me the resurrection story is not just a religious story passed down through the ages, but a real life event played out in my own life. His nail scared hands, presented to me in my own time of fear and disbelief. God making him known to a little girl who needed more to hold onto, a refuge from a world that was more painful than her little eight- year old body could absorb on its own. He came down and bore it yet again.
No matter where life has taken me, no matter what mistakes I have made and what areas I have failed the one thing that I know because I know is that the Easter story is as real today as it was in the bible days and as real as it was in 1971 when my own Easter Story went from tragedy to triumph.