I didn't realize Easter would be this tough. Walking up to the church doors, we followed behind a family with two small girls, dressed in their Easter finest, and I almost thought I wouldn't make it through the doors. John asked if I was ok, should we still go, but I said yes and we pushed forward...determined to celebrate in this joyous day. When we settled into a pew, I looked ahead and saw a baby girl with a cute little flower headband on...and my mind instantly envisioned an adorable little spring dress that is still hanging in Callie's closet. The perfect Easter dress. I would have totally put some gigantic over-the-top flower headband on her cute little noggin'. Deep breath. Deep breath. I tried to hold back the urge to cry as more and more children and their proud parents piled into the sanctuary.
The church was filled with high energy and good spirits, the purple robes of Lent exchanged for white to symbolize the pureness of Christ's resurrection. I tried to let myself be filled with the sun shining through the stained glass and with the refreshing atmosphere of renewal and rejuvenation. But it was hard, oh was it hard. The songs moved me to tears and I spent most of the first moments of church daydreaming about Callie...sorry Pastor. But then, as he began his sermon, the pastor had me hooked on the story of Jesus and the empty tomb. Thinking about those first moments when the women found the stone rolled away, I imagined what it must have been like, allowing my mind to travel 2000 years back in time. The women were mourning...I know that emotion. They were going to the tomb to honor his body, bathe him, dress him for the next world...I know that feeling too. They were anxious and worried about the next step...ditto for me. And then, when they came to the tomb, the stone had been rolled away and there, inside, was an angel dressed in white, sent to tell them the message of Jesus. The women were afraid...I know this feeling too. When I encountered my Maggiano Angel I was struck with fear. I know he is a real person (my friend saw him the next time she ate there and he told her he keeps our note in his Bible!), but to me he was my angel...put in my life at that precise moment to answer a prayer. And I was so afraid.
But I was also amazed. And my faith was renewed.
Later in the service, as we bowed our heads to say the Lord's Prayer, I flashed back to the scary moment when John and I held hands in the operating room and said the Lord's Prayer together as they attempted to resuscitate Callie. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name... The fear in John's eyes mirrored my own and we cried as we begged the Lord to save our little girl. We had no words other than this timeless prayer...how many others have whispered it in a time of desperation? Unfortunately, this is one prayer that was not answered in the way that we hoped. However, God did bring Callie back to us for long enough to hold her and know her living presence. This was the most bittersweet blessing we have ever received. It has taken time for me to recognize it as just that...a blessing. I will never understand His plan, but I pray every night for Him to help illuminate the path for us.
Taking communion, I barely held myself together only to break down when we returned to our pew. As the tears streamed down my face, I felt the slow warmth of healing slipping over me like the flames of a fire on a cold night. I was overcome by the feeling that our next Easter will be very different...joyous and exciting. We will have our turn to dress a little one up, do Easter egg hunts, and take hysterical pictures of them crying on the Easter Bunny's lap. Our babies will know this church and will dance and sway to the music. In that moment, I knew everything will be ok. It was God's peace. I was fragile, teary-eyed, and tender...but filled with peace.
My empty heart, like the tomb, has been filled with God's love. That is good news, and I'm glad to share it. He is risen. He is risen, indeed.