Christ died three days before Easter. My oldest son died four days after. Mary was reunited with her son seventy two hours after he died. I will wait seventy two years.
The gentle spring breeze blows back the memories of that never changing day on April 20th, 2006. While most people are relieved to have the snow melt and the flowers burst through the soil, my mind only goes to one memory. The day I handed my son to God.
The days have been long but the years have flown by. The journey through grief has been that of a rollercoaster. Sometimes leaving me dizzy, confused and sick to my stomach. At other times a whirlwind of hope with exhilaration of overcoming sprinkled throughout. At times the ride has felt too long. Moments of strength pierce my mortality as I buckle up to hit the loops on the ride again. Knowing the ride will eventually stop, giving me reprieve and courage to ride again.
I still remember James' one and only Easter egg hunt and his gleeful giggle when he discovered goodies in the round plastic contraptions. For many years Easter was like a bee sting straight in my heart. All I could focus on was the empty Easter basket, the missed opportunity and what I had lost.
Try as I may on Easter I'd try to reframe my thoughts to positivity and hope. Gratitude for the life Christ gave that would enable me to hug James again one day. Inevitably I found myself as a pile of tears on my hardwood floor. Guilt would ransack my feelings that I didn't have more faith to take the pain away. No matter what I tried, my heart could not and would not turn my son over to God. I held on to my grief with a death grip, afraid to let go of the pain that held me tethered to my eternal child.
I have thought of Mary many times over the last seventeen years. Watching your child die is a pain no mother should hold in her heart. It's the only kind of pain you can understand if you've walked through that valley. We celebrate Jesus on Easter. We celebrate his life and his sacrifice and what it means to all of us. It means hope of reuniting., eternal life and salvation. It means healing and grace. His life means hope.
But today, I don't want to only honor Christ and what he gave to me. I want to honor the mother that did the impossible. The woman who stood as my example. Mary, the mother of Jesus who wept by his feet as she watched him take his final breath. Mary, the woman who watched her son be tortured and slain for millions of people she'd never know. The woman and mother who sacrificed her beloved child so that I could experience with my son what she did at Christ's tomb that Easter morning. Today I celebrate Mary and her faith in a plan she could not understand. I celebrate a woman who handed her child over to God as that child handed his own life over to his father in heaven.
Today on this Easter sabbath I celebrate Christ and all he did for me and my family. I celebrate his courageous mother Mary and I celebrate all of the mothers who have walked the same valley of grief. I celebrate every woman who has courageously put one foot in front of the other in her grief. I celebrate every mother who practices handing her grief over to God; breath by breath, moment by moment and day by day. I celebrate women who valiantly face their Fridays for seventy two years until their Sunday comes. Most trials last a season that with time resolve. The season of bereavement is a lifetime.
Thankfully and with my entire soul my heart bleeds gratitude for Christ and what he suffered so when no one else understands, he does. Mary has become very dear to my heart as I look to her example. If she can do it, so can I. If she can selflessly give her son to God, so can I. If she can walk through the valley of death, so can I. And more than anything, I know as she was reunited with her beloved child, so will I.
For that, Easter is that day of connecting, giving honor and thanks to Christ my Savior and his mother Mary, who has been my example.
Until we meet again,
I love you to Heaven and Back.