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Life with a smile: Celebrations and grief

By Kate Snyder

My daughter cried on the night before Easter. It was like all the tiny disappointments of the last month crystalized with the realization that we wouldn’t go to church in the morning. The special dress would sit in the closet; her dad’s special sermon would be piped through the computer speakers; the only special music was to be a recording, distorted by the digital transmission. 

Easter was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the moment when her tender heart finally rebelled and said, “Enough of this. I’m done.” 

Girl, I’m with you. I’d had my own breakdown a week earlier, with tears that kept coming in waves as I lay curled on the couch, too mentally and emotionally exhausted to move. So I understood her pain – I just couldn’t fix it.

Luckily, I didn’t have to “fix” it. We went into the day grieving, but ultimately found plenty of reasons to celebrate. It started with food – as so many good days do. Growing up, Easter was usually more about eating than about Jesus. My parents would seek out the best holiday brunch spots in the greater Chicago area, then we’d dress up and enjoy a fantastic meal. 

Even though we were homebound this year, we pulled together a sugar-laden feast, with cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip scones shaped and frosted like eggs. Plus bacon, just to balance things out. I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that there was also a bowl of jelly beans prominently positioned on the dining table. (The pear flavored ones are the best.)

We also dressed for breakfast, the girls flouncing to the table in fluttery dresses and high heels, my son rolling his eyes but grudgingly agreeing to don a polo shirt over his track shorts. We take victories where we can find them.

Because clearly scones and cinnamon rolls weren’t enough sugar for the morning, I also staged our own backyard Easter egg hunt and the kids bounced off all available walls for most of the day. In addition to candy, the eggs contained clues that led to baskets with new swimsuits and Lego sets: one part optimism for future summer camps and one part reality that we have a lot of time to kill these days.

The Lego kits worked a holiday miracle, calming the animosity that had been simmering among my kids after too many days (weeks) stuck together in the house. They disappeared into my son’s room to work on their kits and stayed there happily for a couple hours, with my eldest daughter patiently helping the others with their work.

Then we headed to church. 

No, not like that. Don’t call the governor on me! Two of our beloved church friends were celebrating birthdays on Easter and someone had decided to organize a “honk parade” past their houses. So we tied a helium balloon to the van’s side mirror, draped a sign out the window, and queued up. There were at least 70 cars at the staging area, the sight of which promptly reduced me to tears. 

We drove through the neighborhood, honking and waving madly, laughing and crying in equal measure, then returned home for dinner, joined by the kids’ dad. 

It was a beautiful day. 

And that’s the whole story of Easter, right? At its core, it’s a story about grief and celebration. It’s a story about pain and loneliness and confusion – and it’s a story about joy and reunion and triumph. 

Unfortunately, it’s not a linear story for us. We don’t get to leave the hardship behind after Easter. There were more tears Monday morning as we tried valiantly to get back into the swing of schoolwork after taking a much-needed spring break. There is daily frustration about not getting to see friends, not getting to go to the park, not getting to eat out. We’re all overwhelmed and exhausted. 

We’re still grieving, but the celebrations make it bearable.