With Easter on the horizon, I find my thoughts turning to my deceased mom, more and more. Part of that, no doubt, is because holidays are inherently linked with family, even those who are no longer, physically, with us. The other reason, just as compelling, is that death and resurrection are inexorably linked to Easter. Naturally, the specificity of
When I was young, between the ages of four and seven, I lived in
Too bad real war can’t work like that. Too bad adults can’t tap into early-childhood innocence and take a peek through that window of ignorance, through which we once were privy to observe life—during that time in our lives before we even knew of death, let alone of its universality and permanence. We certainly didn’t expend time marveling at—or even questioning the feasibility of—our immortality; forget about our fully grasping the miracle of resurrected life and how the claim of its one-time occurrence impacts all of humankind, forevermore, whether you believe in it or not.
My mom lived roughly half her sixty-one years as a practicing Roman Catholic and half as an agnostic with atheistic leanings. Despite her personal spiritual journey, she celebrated Easter every year, without fail—many of them with me, both when I was a child and an adult with my own, two children. Given the fact my parents left the Catholic Church when I was five, it’s fair to say my mom spent more Easters with me as a non-believer than as a believer. (I had rejoined the Catholic Church, making both my First Holy Communion and Confirmation, during my freshman year of college.)
Nonetheless, Easter was always a special time for us. My earliest Easter memory is from when I was four or five, because I can remember going to Easter Mass with the family—my two, older brothers, included—at the church on Purdue’s campus.
I donned my fancy Easter dress with a yellow coat and matching hat, all of which were bought just for that special occasion. I also wore a pair of white bobby socks, each with a small, embroidered flower on its lacy ruffles. Completing my outfit was a pair of black, patent-leather shoes and a matching purse. Seemingly, for this one occasion, even I—a proclaimed “tom-boy”—didn’t mind how feminine I must’ve looked. For once, I savored not looking exactly like my brothers, in my often-worn hand-me-down clothes of theirs; instead, at least on that particular morning, I relished looking more like a mini-version of my mom.
Still, despite the clarity of these recollections, my memories, in general, are fleeting. I can remember walking from our car to the church, my hand, secure within my mom’s. That Easter exuded freshness, everywhere—its air, laden with springtime’s renewal-of-life sounds and scents, as the mid-morning sun rays pierced around the edges of Purdue’s tall, brick buildings. An image of the church’s interior is pretty vague; although, it’s a safe bet to say it was huge and contemporary. I remember sitting way in the back, on the left-hand side, seated next to my middle brother. (We were inseparable, back then. Even with his being two years older than me, we were roughly the same size and often mistaken for twins.)
I remember straining to see past the wall of bodies, just to get a glimpse of the front alter; and, so, I have no real memory of the priest, readings, or homily. There was a folk-music group, consisting of hippie-like characters, playing songs, like “
Yes, memory is fickle. I can’t explain why some memories resurrect themselves, while others shy away from the light. I’m just glad that, on occasion, they feel inclined to work their way to the fore—especially when they’re of my mom.