/ / We are Easter People – Jesus, Hurry to Console

We are Easter People – Jesus, Hurry to Console


I have been quietly pondering the events of Holy Week and Easter for a few days.

They were hard and holy days. They were beautiful yet we still ached to be consoled.

I read a quote from St. Leo this weekend declaring that once Jesus fulfilled the three days foretold in the tomb, He didn’t want to wait any longer to rise up and show himself to those sitting vigil and mourning His loss. “He hastened to console His mother and the disciples.”

St Leo the Great says in a beautiful way that Jesus hastened to rise as soon as possible because He was in a hurry to console His Mother and the disciples…”

Francis Fernandez

Holy Saturday, the day of silence, reminded me of the darkness, deafening silence, and ache of loss I felt days after Jon took his last breaths. The Apostles, Mary, and Jesus’ friends simply didn’t know what to do with themselves in their loss. I can relate to this. 

Most of the past 11 months have been like this, What do I do next.

Lord, show me what to do next.”

I have lived through many hard firsts as we approach the first anniversary without Jon. But this past Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter were probably the most gut-wrenching firsts of those we experienced. 

It makes sense that reliving these heavy, Holy liturgical days of Jesus carrying the cross to His death would touch more profoundly those who have experienced loss.

Though I know the Resurrection gives us hope, it was painful – the loneliness, abandonment, denial, the pain—has felt like Good Friday for days. At times, these days still do.

Much like last year when my Easter was stricken with a massive migraine—a head split in two by a crown of thorns— as I lay next to my husband, who mostly unaware of my pain, was becoming less of himself but who kept his gaze fixed on the suffering servant, the Man of SorrowsI knew I would be sacrificing him to God sooner than laterI was pleading for more time. Holding onto hope and the cross.

How would we celebrate and honor this first Easter without Jon? That has been the question for weeks.  

As I said, I have lived through many firsts —since Jon died—last year. 

They say the first year is the worst. 

I am sure, to some degree, that is true. Having lost many loved ones, I contend grief doesn’t disappear after the first year. We learn to walk with our grief while searching for hope and joy.

Isn’t that why Jesus accepted his cross, to die and rise for us? 

Truthfully, I am a sad widow who misses the life I knew with the companion I stood next to in every Easter Mass for decades. Why does everyone want us to so quickly dismiss our sadness when we just really need to be consoled?

I stood with him as I chose to be welcomed into the Catholic church 27 years ago. We built our lives around its teachings, the Story of Salvation, History, and the Joy of Easter. That is why we love Easter so much—it’s where I found the true meaning of love and home.

We are Easter People.

We are Easter People who sing an Alleluia and who still need to be consoled.

I knew this Easter would be like walking to Calvary again for us. Easter Monday will always remind me of a journey home—one where I drove the kids to the airport and the emotions that rose out of knowing that we would soon be preparing for death.

Those reminders are brutal, even if the dates don’t align with the calendar. The body remembers, and the soul does, too. Easter is a tender time for us. I can’t help remember the humbling moment having our feet washed on Holy Thursday 2022.

We didn’t know it would become abundantly clear later that day—Easter Monday—last year that I would need to discern and decide the next step for my husband’s journey home. I held in my heart the conversations Jon and I had over our lifetime and very early in his diagnosis. 

Jon would remind me, “You will know what to do when the time comes, Heather. Remember, I chose you because you first chose to look to God to decide anything. You will know what to do and have my blessing for all of it.”

Like the friends and apostles who waited on Holy Saturday and wanted to know what to do next, I didn’t always know what to do next when things seemed bleak, and certainly now in this life without Jon here by my side. 

But as always, I know I need to go to God because He meets us where we are in our hour of need; he loves us to the end and guides our hearts when we invite Him in.

I didn’t know what to do with this Easter Holiday. The options were slim to none. 

 But God knew.

I feel like I am still living in the ache of Good Friday and the silence of Holy Saturday for days, weeks, and months since last year. We have been clinging to the cross. It still feels like Lent.

I am not living in despair or depression. I am living a tender life after a monumental loss. We don’t get over it in three days. Thankfully, Jesus is quick to console.

I wasn’t sure how best to honor the sacred Triduum days and celebrate Easter—an event worth celebrating with the kids. Like all of our other holidays and birthdays this year, we still want to mark them, but it’s sometimes hard to muster the strength. The heavy days of Lent feel easier.

Celebrating anything feels strange, painful, sad, lonely in a room full of people.

Grief can be so isolating. 

But when I read St. Leo’s words about how Jesus raced toward dawn to console those grieving at the tomb, I knew I would be okay to raise an Alleluia even as I walked in sorrow.  

God (and my kids) guided my weary hands through it. He showed me what I needed to do because it was our gift.

Jon and I often filled our home to break bread and offer the gift of hospitality to others. It was our language of love together. We started our lives serving and showing hospitality to others. 

Giving the gift of hospitality to others became a source of life and love for us. Jon and I missed giving and receiving this gift while he was sick. He and I could not give to others that way when we had to give everything we had to fight cancer. But we missed hosting and celebrating immensely. We missed being invited in, too.

I still cannot give like I used to. Grief has so many layers that make easy things impossible. It is necessary for this griever to guard her tender, aching heart. Inviting others and serving them was easy for us, but it seems to be one of the hardest things to do right now.

The gift of hospitality—both giving and receiving—has become more meaningful to the kids and me than ever before.

As I mentioned, we didn’t know what was right for this Easter Season— prospects were nil with ne’er an invitation. 

Sitting at home alone for another holiday was not a viable option for us for another holiday this year.

It became clear to what and where God was calling us.

So we packed our car with pieces of home and our Easter baskets.

We filled it with food and our Sunday bests.

Then hit the road and we held onto hope.

We set up our little domestic church in our home away from home and planned to celebrate Triduum/Easter with my son, his friends, and a few other parents. 

We stood, knelt, sat, and watched the dark turn to light. We shared our light with the next candle. We processed in the dark by candlelight, praised His holy name, prayed in the silence of our hearts, and raised our voices to sing Alleluia in a room full of faithful young men, women, and some families scattered throughout. 

It was both breathtaking and heartbreaking. 

These are the sacred days of the resurrection story.

Ubi caritas, est vera, est vera, Deus ibi est.
Where there is charity, there is true God.

The Sacred Days of the Triduum gave me blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace. Even as I ached for a life I once knew. 

With very little sleep thanks to hours of kneeling, standing, sitting, praising, singing in a Vigil Mass, dancing, and standing into the wee hours at a Res Party, I woke on Easter morning in our home many miles from home. I remembered all the other Easter mornings when baskets overflowed with Chocolate bunnies, little curiosities, and sweet peeps as sleepy kids emerged from bed to hunt for plastic eggs and then dress for mass in our Sunday bests. 

Easters were different then.

Life was full of promise for a future and hope.

Easter was different this year. 

Loneliness never felt so pronounced, even in a crowded room. And I stood in many crowded rooms these past few days. 

But I searched for hope and found comfort in knowing others were searching for something to console them too.  

As many hands and feet of Christ—young men and women, parents, and friends—entered our house for brunch, I saw the glimmers of hope and the bright light we all needed. 

Grace and joy would abound. We were comforted and consoled.

Every person who entered came with their own suffering, brokenness, and a desire to belong to something greater than themselves and a few things to add to our table of plenty. They found a soft place to land. I did, too. 

Joy and sorrow.

Light in the dark.

Hope in an empty tomb, and the Risen Lord uniting us to the foot of the cross.

This is Resurrection Life. 

Hope is found in the suffering Jesus endured. Death and sin will someday be no more.

“All I want to know is Christ and the power flowing from His Resurrection!” 

St. Francis of Assisi.

This Easter Sunday, God used this moment to heal, console and restore parts of my heart and others’. We celebrated and held space by opening our doors and serving others who were also many miles from home, who have become family and have helped my kids and I navigate some of our most challenging days.

They are the hope and the future.

And for a moment, the loneliness was lifted. As I looked around and saw a crowded house, I flashed back to images of past holidays in the home Jon and I created. 

The table was reminiscent, with a few favorite things and familiar fare—just enough to feel like home.

The moment was familiar: our son in the kitchen, the girls scurrying about setting out food and opening the door to welcome guests—our “framily”—each offering to help lift the weight. 

It felt like home. 

Tears filled my eyes.

It has taken me a long time and a long, narrow way to get here, but opening the doors breathed new life.

For a moment, darkness could not overcome the light.

As I looked around, wishing Jon was standing in the kitchen and this unfamiliar place, I heard a familiar voice say, “Remember I told you, ‘You always know what to do. ‘ Look what you did. You do what you do best. You invite others in and make them feel welcome and at home. You filled another house with love and laughter. And you found hope in a new day, even if just for today.”

Hearing Jon’s voice breathe those words on my heart gave me supernatural peace and hope. 

Even though the journey and days were challenging, I knew without a doubt I was in the right place, never mind the moments of grace and consolation God revealed to me in total darkness during the Easter Vigil mass. 

So yes, I filled that house, even if it was miles from home, with Easter people who stood, knelt, sat, stood, and prayed with us for the sacred and holy days. 

We broke bread, said grace, laughed, danced, cried, played a few games, gave baskets filled with Easter candy, and let Alleluia be our song. And we ate a darn good brunch and our hearts were consoled.

“We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!”

St. John Paul II, 1986

St Leo the Great says in a beautiful way that Jesus hastened to rise as soon as possible because He was in a hurry to console His Mother and the disciples: He was in the tomb strictly as long as was necessary to comply with the three days that had been foretold. He rose on the third day, as soon as He could, just before sunrise, when everything was still dark,’ in advance of the dawn with his own light. The world was benighted. Only the Virgin Mary was a light amid such darkness.”

F Fernandez, Conversation with God, Vol II.

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One Comment

  1. Heather,
    I hope these reflections comfort your soul, like they bless mine. The love you share with Jon continues to be a light in the darkness. You continue to inspire me in faith as you share your sorrow and your journey into the future without your beloved best friend. There are no words to comfort. The only thing I can do is to pray and love you in the here and now.
    Thank you, sweet Heather. You are so beautiful.
    Peace be with you and with your spirit,

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