Before Thanksgiving, as I “juned” around the kitchen -- a mountain word Mama used to mean “fast moving” -- preparing for company, it occurred to me that I should invite Jerry.
People often say, “I’ve been knowin’ him since I was born,” making a sweeping statement. When I say it about Jerry, it is literally true. Jerry was born the day before I and, there in the hospital nursery, we began a course of friendship which has never ceased. He lives just a piece over the road from us.
Jerry is a farmer. A serious one. A family legacy. He’s quiet, too, which leads me to believe that in the nursery, he probably never uttered a whimper while I probably never stopping making noise. Mama firmly maintained I was a good baby and seldom fussed, but I probably cooed constantly. I say this because Jerry grew to be a man of few words while I, in case you haven’t noticed, am a woman of many.
Anyway, I called Jerry and invited him. “Well,” he began then paused. “There ain’t no kind of parade is there? The kind y’all have at Easter? I don’t wanna be in no parade.”
“No,” I promised, laughing. “That is only our Easter tradition.”
He was referring to our long-held practice of performing a parade of Easter smiles and clothes we squeeze in between church and lunch. We video it and then, inevitably, cherish those Easters long ago when everyone we loved was still alive.
In all the years I have written this column, I have, unfailingly, dedicated my Easter column to the frills, fluff and fun of the holiday. I’ve talked of pretty bonnets, food a’plenty and once I told the story of Dixie Dew who jumped on, belly flat, the fresh baked cake I had situated in the back floorboard then hurried back in the house to retrieve my purse. I was so upset.
“If you weren’t already dressed for the Easter parade, I’d leave you home,” I scolded.
Today, though, I write of the true meaning of Easter. A family member recently died. She toiled hard for a few weeks, trying to make it to the end of life. It was not an easy home-going. She had always been a woman of remarkable, outspoken faith. She was an optimist, staunchly confident her faith would deliver the impossible in the midst of the most improbable.
But faith is not magic. Any God-fearing person who has ever been in the trenches of trials and tribulations will tell you that. We will tell you prayer will most certainly comfort and make a way, but it is seldom a Doug Flutie Hail Mary football pass delivering a last minute miraculous win. Prayer works, but the Lord makes His own schedule and His own way. For the angels who die young, I have decided it is God’s reward to them, not His punishment to us.
As she crawled toward death, inch by inch, day by day, her lifetime of solid faith did not desert her. Not for a moment. She questioned not her destination or God’s timing. By her bedside, I sat for many hours in those closing weeks of her life’s drama. She spoke sweetly, smilingly of her Jesus and where she was going. Her peace was admirable.
Once, as she drifted off to morphine-induced sleep, whispering the name of Jesus, it reminded me how living with faith is important but dying with it is crucial.
Her faith was undergirded by eternal, heavenly salvation wrought by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary and His resurrection three days later. So, this year, I celebrate the true meaning of Easter and the glory that abounds from that resurrection.
Isn’t that much prettier than a basket of colored eggs and candy or a gorgeous Easter hat? And, definitely, more meaningful.
(Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know About Faith. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.)