Easter just isn’t the same any more, not since Jason died.
Growing up in the home of a pastor, we always celebrated Easter in a special way. New dresses, new shoes, special radio program prepared by the “Singing Knudson’s,” special music and message for church service. We, of course, did none of the Easter bunny stuff at all. It was all about celebrating the burial and resurrection of Jesus.
We continued the traditions after Joe and I got married and our kids were born. I bought or sewed new clothes for the kids. I made a new dress for myself. I got up really early on Easter Sunday morning and put together the kids’ Easter baskets, filling them with things I had been secretly collecting for weeks. I put the baskets in front of their bedroom doors to find when they first woke up. After breakfast, off we went to church, bright and early on Easter Sunday morning, to celebrate our risen Savior. We went out to lunch after the service, clothed in our Sunday finest. We had Easter egg hunts, either in the park or at our house, with Joe hiding the eggs over and over again for the kids to find. One year, my mom came to visit us for Easter. It was so much fun. Easter was full of fun and joy.
After Jason died, it seemed as though we tried to carry on with the way things had been. We tried to be “normal,” like we used to be. When your world shatters and everything you know changes or disappears, I suppose you try to hold on to what you know in an effort to find your bearings again. Joe had gone back to work, and Jenna and I had gone back to college a week after Jason died. Since Jenna was participating in the Running Start program (going to college and receiving both high school and college credits while still in high school), she needed to complete her credits in order to graduate. So, we went back to school. The car she had shared with Jason had been destroyed in the accident, so we rode to school together until we could find a car for her.
Easter 2002 was on March 31st, just four weeks after Jason died. On Easter Sunday morning, we got up, got dressed and got ready to go to church. As we started to drive to church, Jenna told us she just couldn’t go. Joe and I realized that we just couldn’t go, either. We turned around and went back home, sat on the bed and cried and cried and cried. It was a horrible day, our first “holiday” without Jason.
I think that was the day I began to realize that I didn’t have to – I couldn’t – carry on the way things had been in the past. The “normal” I had known was gone. It was just a very small inkling of realization, one that I would continue – and keep continuing – to learn. I didn’t have to push my family or myself to keep trying to carry on as usual, because the “usual” was no more. I wasn’t the same. None of us were the same. We didn’t have to go to Easter Sunday service four weeks after Jason died, just because it was something we always had done. We needed to do what we felt we could do, what we wanted or needed to do for ourselves.
I wish someone had told me this way back then, that it was okay to give myself permission not to keep on trying to do things the way they had been done. I kept trying to be strong, kept trying to put on a good face, kept trying to go on the way I had before. It was so exhausting trying to act like I had “before.” That’s the thing, though. For a parent whose child has died, there is a very clear line between the “before” and the “after.” Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same. Easter – and all holidays – can never be the same. How could they be? There is a huge hole in our families, in our lives, in our celebrations. We just have to find a way to find new meaning in those events or special days, and new traditions or ways to celebrate.
I am thankful for the hope that Easter represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a way for us to reconcile our sinful, human natures with the holiness of God, Jesus Christ’s victory over death when he rose from the grave, and the promise of eternal life after death. Without the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, I would have no hope of seeing Jason again. And I am so incredibly thankful for that hope.
My precious Jason, I miss you in this Easter season and every day. I love you. I look forward to the day I will see you again.
© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney