As Easter approaches during Holy Week, memories come flooding back, filling my mind with thoughts of family, Easter baskets, church services and Cadbury Creme Eggs.
As a child, my Easters were filled with an extra day off from school, coloring Easter eggs, the Easter Bunny bringing an Easter basket filled with chocolates, jelly beans, a new baseball and fishing hooks. My brother and I would get new clothes for Easter Sunday and we would wear them to church to hear my father’s message for Easter. That’s right, my father was a minister, so church on Sunday was the norm for my family.
On Good Friday my brother and I would have to be in the house or in church between noon and 3 o’clock. My mother told us that this represented the three hours that Jesus was on the cross during his crucifixion and it was to honor Him.
Easter always brought a rebirth – signs of spring were everywhere. All the plants, flowers and trees were being reborn and showing new signs of life. How appropriate that this happens during Holy Week, when Jesus was crucified, died on the cross and rose again!
Easter weekend meant Easter egg hunts and parades. Saturday night was filled with anticipation of what the Easter Bunny would be bringing us. Bedtime was early so we could get up early and empty our Easter baskets of all their hidden treasures. Oh, what a magical and happy time. Not only had the Easter Bunny come, but our Savior Jesus had risen!
After the excitement of our Easter baskets, it was time for breakfast and then dressing in our shiny new Easter clothes for Sunday School and church. Dad usually left right after breakfast to go to the church and make sure everything was ready for services while Mom made sure we wore our new clothes and that we had washed our faces and hands and brushed our teeth.
My Dad’s Easter service was always a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, filled with music, hope and thanking God for all He does for us. It was a celebration that we all needed after the sadness of the crucifixion of Jesus.
After church we would rush back to our house, shed our new clothes and dig into the goodies from our baskets. There were the usual jelly beans, plastic eggs with coins or jelly beans in them, Peeps, crayons and of course a chocolate bunny. I remember shaking the plastic eggs to guess which ones had coins in them. I loved to fish so I would always get some new fish hooks and leaders. The Easter Bunny obviously knew me well.
As I grew older, the Easter Bunny seemed to know that I wasn’t a little boy anymore. I’d still get an Easter Basket but it was less candy and more fishing stuff.
Easter Dinner was always ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and rolls. It was always the same, whether Mom cooked or we went out to eat.
When I was 16, Dad was called to minister to the Oakwood Heights Community Church on Staten Island. He continued that church’s traditional Easter Sunrise Service and the early rising church members would come to hear Dad’s message. He would gently always welcome those that only came to church on Easter and Christmas. Often after the service I would go to the sand dunes at Oakwood Beach and just sit for awhile watching the ocean and enjoying the sound of the waves softly lapping at the shore. It was a very special time for me and I always felt closer to God while I sat on those dunes.
Easter can also bring sad memories. I will never forget Good Friday in 1956 when I was 12. My Mom and I were coloring Easter Eggs when I started having severe stomach pains with a high fever. I was admitted to the hospital and the doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. I guess the technology we have today was perfected in 1956. Finally, after a week of pain, IVs, and a barrage of tests, they decided to perform what they called “Exploratory Surgery”. They made an incision in my lower belly and found that my appendix had ruptured and peritonitis had spread through my abdomen. The doctors told my parents that it was a miracle that I hadn’t died. They cleaned up the infection, inserted two drainage tubes and closed me up. Unfortunately the appendix was very mangled and the infection needed to be cleaned up before they could remove it. I returned to the hospital in 6 weeks and they opened up the original incision and removed the appendix. That memory will always stand out in my mind at Easter.
In 2003, 8 days before Easter, my first wife Aledia passed away from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. She died two weeks shy of our 35th anniversary. Easter can bring back sad memories as well as happy ones.
Easter memories, happy ones and even sad ones are treasures to always remember. Every year as Easter approaches, these memories return to us. They remind us of our family and friends and how blessed we are.
We remember singing The Easter Parade, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, The Old Rugged Cross and Christ The Lord Is Risen Today.
Most importantly, our memories of Easter remind us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was crucified, died and rose again. We are reminded that if we believe in Jesus we will not perish, but will have everlasting life.
All of these memories are a part of us. They are who we are and are part of the story of our lives. When I was young I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the true meaning of Easter like I do today. We are all children of God.
Hold fast to your memories and celebrate the glory of Easter. Our Easter memories are a reminder of the depth of love that God has for us and the things that are most important in life.