“…and the greatest of these is love.”
This is a sacred time of year to me, the passion season. Years ago my life changed forever after having learned the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday. I quickly discarded most of what and how I had been taught to celebrate “Easter.” First and foremost among the many things that I had to unlearn, was that “Easter” was a derivative of a pagan name for a deity. There is no mention of Jesus associated with Easter in the Bible.
Looking back at my childhood, apart from the candy, I was developing a growing dislike for Easter at a young age. We had to go to church. We had to participate in a play or dance performance. Easter Sunday always meant a new dress full of frills and lace (yuk), a bonnet or ribbons, lace trimmed anklets (double yuk), patient leather shoes, white gloves (yes white gloves, I know that I am dating myself), and a new “pocketbook” (a “ purse” for you youngsters). It meant smelling Dixie peach and burning hair. It meant hearing the sizzle of the hot comb over my ears and keeping the butter on the table in preparation for the evitable burn. Then hearing the frustration in my mother’s voice when my hair just wouldn’t cooperate and do the perfect Shirley Temple curl.
With time, I realized just how blessed we were. My mother, who was widowed, was able single handedly to do this every year for three girls, a true testament to the grace and glory of God. I was to learn later that many children did not have the things that I complained about. We dyed eggs, made Easter baskets, and ate jelly beans and chocolate. We feasted on Honeybaked ham and macaroni and cheese among other things. All of this and more were part of our celebration of Easter. Who could imagine back then, not having a new Easter outfit to wear to church?
This week I found myself doing what I never thought I would do. I was buying jelly beans, Easter baskets, dyeing eggs and helping to decorate a room in Easter splendor. What happened? What happened to my board line self-righteousness looking at those who still regarded Resurrection Sunday as Easter with a bit of pity? Love is what happened. A relationship is what happened.
I have been blessed and honored to meet, befriend, and become adopted by the mother of a dear friend, Engracia (Grace) Rodriguez. Mother Grace is 86 years young. She is a queen. Living here for more than a few decades, she has endured what would break the spirit of a lesser woman. She survived life in a patriarchal society and later thrived both in Puerto Rico then in the US after her husband’s death. She speaks no English but always manages to get her point across. Impeccably groomed, her mannerisms and warm spirit can only be described as “elegant.”
She is a beautiful woman of God whose love is infectious. A little more than a month ago, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She told us that she already knew something was
wrong before the biopsy. As she prepares for surgery and chemo this week, she stated how much she missed “home” and how she use to decorate her home for Easter.
That was all I needed. While I had never done this before, I remembered everything that my mother used to do for us and I along with her daughter, who thankfully is a lot more creative than I am, went to work. We bought chocolate bunnies, Easter baskets, jelly beans, marshmallow chicks, and rabbit ears which we wore while dyeing eggs and listening to tropical sambas. Mother Grace was stirring pots that all smelled wonderful and I loved every minute of it.
How uncertain our tomorrows are, does relationship have to be sacrificed for religion? For me, the answer is absolutely not. If I can help to bring joy to this courageous “queen mother” at a challenging time in her life, I am there. Not once did I think about Easter versus Resurrection, terminology verses theology, tradition verses iconoclasm. I was driven by love which should be what undergirds everything. “….and the greatest of these is love.” For the entire day, Mother Grace was surrounded by her daughter and son, surrounded by grandchildren and great grandchildren, friends and extended family, Easter decorations and flowers, pots of food with heaping mounds of love.
My prayer to you during this passion season is that somewhere in your encounters that you experience the “love of grace” that you are freed from and not live behind barriers of extremes.
Gospel Against AIDS