That first year Shari missed our Easter celebration was hard, but we knew that she needed to rest and keep fighting the monster of cancer. Her children still came– and together the cousins celebrated as they had since they were babes. They couldn’t remember an Easter apart.
The following year she was gone from this Earth. I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare the Easter celebration without her. For more than a decade she and I plotted, planned, and prepared as we brought our kids together for this special weekend. Our children, cousins by birth and close friends by gift, spent years of Easter weekends together coloring eggs and helping prepare special Easter treats. They readied their baskets cushioned with that cling-to-your-pants plastic grass.
Then it was our turn. Shari and I giggled as we collected those baskets and carried them away for our mission. Glasses of wine in hand we filled each with sugared treats, special trinkets, and memories. Then we devised hiding places – based on age and ability of each child – combined with just how mischievous we were feeling ourselves. Each Easter built upon the previous. No hiding spot was duplicated. No basket looked the same. Each tradition we shared with the kids solidified year after year.
Early in the morning the kids flung themselves out of bed and scrambled through the house to find their hidden baskets of treasures. After limiting the chocolate intake, we readied for church and the celebration of Easter service. My heart always lifted on these days, celebrating Easter together.
That first year with without her sagged my heart with the weight of grief. I was as empty as a plastic egg. I desperately still wanted to provide the kids – hers and mine – with their traditions. But I was without my traditions. There was no celebratory glass of wine. No stealing jelly beans for ourselves. No giggling. No laughing over devious hiding places. No wrangling kids with Shari the next morning to hurry to church and Grandma’s.
Here were these kids, though. They needed this tradition. I needed to do this for them – and for me. As Easter nears again, my 4th year without Shari here for Easter, I’ll be buying way too many jelly beans, watching cousins color eggs, and thinking of devious hiding spots for baskets. These cousins – some in college and all probably past the age of typical childhood holiday anticipation – will still celebrate together with one ginormous, loud, amazing sleepover. They will still search for baskets (and still eat chocolate for breakfast). In fact, last year I heard one cousin tell the other that when I no longer do this they will sneak into each other’s homes and hide Easter surprises. I looked up to the Heavens and smiled. It is our tradition. It is our Easter. Death does not take Easter from us. Easter reminds us that death does not remove our joys. Easter gives us the opportunity to see the light in the dark and feel the joy through the pain.
Shari is still here. Her life lives on. She is in the smiles of my niece and nephew, the beaded ornaments she made that hang year-round in my kitchen, and in the memories and traditions we shared. I count on the day that Shari and I will again rejoice together. I also count on my hope that she’ll have a glass of wine waiting for me. I’ll bring the jelly beans.