Easter is here and I find myself thinking about my grandma who died two years ago this month. I thought about looking up the date, and then realized it wasn’t important. In my mind and heart, she died around Easter—which seems far more significant than a specific date.
I think that I have learned more about the message of Easter through my grandma’s death than a thousand books or a lifetime of masses could ever teach me. It seems that God knows what God is doing. We learn best from our experiences. And the circumstances in which we feel our deepest emotions—grief, sorrow, love—seem to have a lot to teach us.
Waking up the day before Easter with tears in my eyes, thinking about my grandma, I still feel…happy. How is it possible to be both sad and happy at the same time? My analytic mind wants to make sense of the emotions and seeming contradictions, but they defy translation or glib explanations. Or, perhaps they transcend them.
My grandma’s death wasn’t untimely, nor was it unexpected. She was ninety when she died, having hit that milestone six months before her death through sheer force of will. When we divided her household things after she died, I took two of her many (many) pillboxes, a humidifier, a coffee mug…. I now refer to these items with affection as “my inheritance.” These little pieces of her ordinary, everyday life have become part of my ordinary, everyday life.
Fresh grief feels like it will crush us; our deep sorrow feels like death, a wound that will never heal. Yet somehow, the hole loss creates in our hearts does heal, leaving in its wake an opening to better appreciate, if not understand, the mysteries and contradictions of death and life, loss and renewal, grief and love.
As far as emotions go, neither grief nor love seems very efficient. But Easter reminds us that we aren’t here to be efficient. When my grandma died, four generations filled her hospital room, singing to her and sharing in that bittersweet moment. For whatever reason, death and grief soften our hearts, create an opening, and connect us like nothing else can.
Having said that, in less than two years since my grandma died, five babies have been born among her grandchildren. She would have loved this wonderful serendipity. Even as I think that, I smile because of course, she already knows. Easter reminds us that life is precious—and death is precious too, it’s just not the final story.