When I was about 7 years old, my great-grandpa Nelson died. It was the first time I went to a viewing or a funeral. I remember being worried about what the casket would look like and what my grandpa would look like. I remember being frightened. I had a vision in my head that the coffin looked like the one in Snow White, with a glass top and flowers all around it. When I went to the viewing with my family, I became distressed because it didn’t look like a Walt Disney scene. I was afraid and didn’t like the smell of all the flowers.
When I was 9, my little school and church friend, Troy, died of a brain aneurysm. We were in third grade and sat together. We walked to primary together after school. We liked to do art together and for a boy, I thought he was nice. He didn’t try to pull up girls’ dresses at recess like some of the other boys. We were good little buddies. I remember the night he died. I remember him saying he had a headache. That night Troy became seriously ill. They didn’t know what was wrong until it was too late. It was really difficult for me to understand that my little friend had died. I remember all the primary children singing at his funeral. It was so frightening to see someone so young, like me, so still and so asleep. Then I remember going to school after that and Troy’s chair was forever empty. His crayons were still there, and the paste that we liked to dry up in the front corner of the cubby desk so we could make things out of it, was still there. It was a long time before I didn’t cry myself to sleep about losing Troy. And even longer still before I didn’t panic every time I got a headache.
When I was 12, my Grandpa died. He had a bad heart and needed open-heart surgery. My parents dropped my sisters and brother and me off at my other grandparents’ house, on their way downtown to be at the hospital. I remember it was awfully late at night and still they had not come to get us and take us home. My grandmother lovingly tucked us into the big bed in the guest room together to go to sleep for the night. Then, in the early hours of the next morning, while we were sound asleep, my parents had come to take us home. Just like it was yesterday, I remember my dad waking me up. He said, “it’s time to go home; grandpa’s dead.” He had died on the operating table and they couldn’t get his heart beating again. I had visited the hospital before his surgery and I still remember him giving me a big hug and kiss and telling me he loved me. I remember crying so hard at his funeral, I couldn’t get myself together. Sitting there in my red Christmas dress that my grandma had sewn for me. I stared at the coffin and stared harder at the grave. I felt my heart leap out of my chest when they lowered his coffin down into the ground. It was grief, truly felt for the first time. I hated it. I wanted him back. After he died, I slept on the floor of my parents’ room for a few nights, afraid that his spirit was somehow roaming the halls of our house.
Yesterday, a very close and dear friend of mine passed away after a long and painful battle with cancer. Joan was a rock star. She was beautiful, clever, funny, genuine, loyal, and happy. We went through a lot together. She was a true and loving friend. It is hard to think that we will not be having our long talks or our trips for onion rings and lime rickies; that I can’t just text her a funny joke and have her respond with a joke back in return; that we won’t get to be old ladies together, wearing knee-hi nylon stockings showing out of our church dresses; that I won’t get to hear her talk of her love of family and of God that inspired me so. I’m sad that she suffered the way that she did. I’m sad her time on this earth was short instead of long. I’m sad for her husband and children who adore her. But, it’s Easter tomorrow and because of what happened on the very first Easter, I am happy for my friend.
Easter is my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving is 2nd). I love it because it’s quiet and not usually commercialized. It’s spring time and the flowers are coming up out of the ground. The trees are blossoming and leafing out. The birds are building new nests and little calves and colts and lambs are being born. Easter happens in the spring, when we are taught in such magnificent ways about a new beginning, a second chance. Easter is most important because of Jesus Christ. Our Savior suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and paid the price for all human suffering and sin. My suffering and sin, and your suffering and sin. My heartaches and hurts, and yours. My sadness and disease, and yours. My wounds at the hands of other people, and yours. Every possible pain, sorrow, ailment, loss, wound, fear, error, mistake, and sin were truly and actually felt by Jesus Christ that day. He bled at every pore, the pain was so horrific. He did this because he loves us. Because we cannot make it back to Heaven to live with God if we are not clean and whole. We needed a mediator, a partner with greater strength, to help us bridge the gap between ourselves and our mortal weakness and our God. Christ did this for us. Then, after being weakened in the garden, he was taken to the cross where he was crucified for saying he was God’s Son. He could have saved himself, but he didn’t want to fail you and me. He refused to let us down. He endured to the end. He completed his mission. He died on the cross, for me, for you, for all of humankind. Then, he was buried in a borrowed tomb. When Mary went back to find him, to properly care for his body, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. She wept and cried, but Jesus greeted her and she recognized him. He had risen from the dead and had been resurrected. His body and his spirit together again, forever. Now completely perfect. He showed Mary his wounds in his hands and feet so she knew that it was really him. She ran to tell his disciples and others. What a glorious day that was!
I am so happy that I have this knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so profoundly grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me and you, and all of us, so much that he allowed his only begotten son, to come to earth and do what he did for us. This is because God wants us to return to live with him again and he knows we cannot do it alone. Jesus knew we needed a savior and so he stepped forward and became that for us. How I love them both for this tremendous sacrifice. Because of Jesus, if I repent of my mistakes, I can be forgiven and clean, able to be worthy to live with God again. Because Jesus rose from the dead, it is now a gift that every person will receive, that we too will be resurrected. Death really has no final word. We will live again. Death is not the end! We will see our family and friends again! I will see my dear friend, Joan again. And my little friend, Troy, and Grandpa. It will be glorious! While I am sad at being separated from my friend, I am so very happy for her! She is free from her pain. She is in the arms of family and friends, and she is in the safe arms of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
If you feel helpless or lonely, sad or rejected; if you are sick or in pain; if you are tired and weary; if you have burdens of sin that make it hard to face yourself each day, take heart! This is what Jesus Christ can do for you. He can take away your pain. He can bring peace to your mind and heart. He can heal you from any wound. He can forgive you of your mistakes. HE LOVES YOU! He did this for you! Easter is for you! and me! and we! The greatest gift the world will ever know is that of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
I am no longer afraid of death. I know it is part of life and it will come to all of us eventually. I know I will live again and be with my family and friends. I know God is real and that Jesus Christ really lives, today! What I do fear is not living my life well. I’m afraid of wasting my life and choices on worldly things instead of focusing on the eternal perspective. I’m afraid of not seeing myself and others the way God sees me and others. I want to align my will with God’s. I want to be more brave. I want to be more happy. I want to have more peace. I want to do what’s right. I am more afraid of not really living than I am of dying.
Easter is real. Jesus Christ is alive today. We have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to return safely home to him. Our families and marriages can be forever. All because of Easter—because of Jesus Christ.