By Dana Gornall
When I was growing up, I loved looking for Easter Sunday shoes.
Whether they were white sandals or patent leather shoes with a wide strap that would cross over the foot with a snap, the bottoms were always a little slippery and perfect for twirling around on the linoleum kitchen floor over and over to make my dress balloon out like an umbrella. Always, by the end of the Easter Sunday, the tops of those brand new shiny white shoes were scuffed with black marks.
We would sit in church, my feet dangling a few inches from the floor, legs covered in white cotton tights swinging back and forth. I’d stare at the shoes, count the spins of the ceilings fans, study the women’s hats, or focus on the grooves and lines in the wooden church pews.
Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies, coloring eggs, salty ham with potatoes at a table with cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents—this was Easter to me.
Sure, there was the underlying Jesus part…after the crucifixion his tomb was empty and he rose from the dead. But that part for me was always just a faded backdrop for everything else, and so I didn’t think much about it.
It has never been a primary holiday for us, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, and so we have spent it in many different ways. Some years we went to Florida and my kids hunted for eggs among palm trees, other years we ate dinner with extended family. This year, Easter is unlike any Easter I have ever known.
A few months ago, around Christmas time, a Facebook friend of mine that lives in Hong Kong posted about the Wuhan virus—as it was mostly called at the time. As I was scrolling on my phone mindlessly watching a show about nothing in particular on TV, I saw an image of him wearing a mask over his face as he ventured out of his home to get food for his small family. I saw his pictures of crowded grocery store lines, read about the toilet paper shortage, and shook my head with empathy. But this was very far away—all the way in China—and unmatched to anything I had ever known.
Now as I sit here typing this on Easter morning, two Easter baskets rest on the table across from me, next to a cloth mask to cover my face for grocery shopping. I rejoiced yesterday while at the store finding packages of toilet paper on the shelves and picked up some, just in case there wouldn’t be any next weekend. I go out to the store as little as possible now and while the lines aren’t as long in my little town as they were in my Facebook friend’s pictures, I know in some places they are.
The virus is here.
Now our lives are filled with terms like lockdown and COVID-19. We see news reports of record number deaths, new cases and talk about sheltering in place. Our social media feeds have videos on how to make your own mask out of a bandana, gas prices have plummeted to the days of the early 1990s, and unemployment sites are crashing.
I sat last night on my couch mindlessly watching a show about nothing in particular and was struck with the idea of Passover and Easter—rising, resurrection and renewal—and how it mirrors our society right this very moment.
You may be celebrating Ostara—a holiday Pagans celebrate at the Spring Equinox recognizing the earth reawakening, the ceasing of stockpiling food rations over the long hard winter, and punctuating that time with feast of food, eggs that symbolize new life, and rabbits (where the Easter bunny originated) that symbolize fertility.
Perhaps you are celebrating Easter—the Christian holiday that remembers the somber moments leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the three days of grieving by all of his followers and family, and the subsequent rising from death, bringing forth life again.
Maybe you are celebrating Passover with a seder, reflecting on when people sheltered in their homes as the angel of death passed over and Jewish people marked their doors with blood and then were set free from slavery.
And maybe you are sitting and going within, counting your breath, reciting a metta chant asking all to be free from suffering.
No matter how you mark this time of year, it reflects emerging from the ashes, liberation and coming back from a time of shelter and dormancy. It embodies the idea of rising out of the darkness, solidarity after a time of strife, coming forward after a time of quiet and remaining inward.
There will be no Easter dresses or shiny shoes this year.
Honestly we don’t go to church anymore and haven’t in a very long time, but this year is still marked with some candy and baskets. I wipe down each doorknob and surface with Clorax and wait for my teenagers to wake up. We won’t meet with family serving salty ham and potatoes at the table, and it seemed silly to attempt coloring eggs in our three person home (with one vegan). But it is still Easter, or some version of it nonetheless.
We will all get through this. We will forever be scarred and changed, but we will get through this. As we shelter-in, as we venture out under masks and gloved hands, as we cheer on the healthcare workers that fight the front lines, as we lock eyes with the grocery store cashiers, as we connect remotely via Zoom or Skype, we are gaining a new strength. We will emerge but for now we sit, we meditate, we say metta, we pray. We watch a whole lot of Netflix.
And we will rise out of this darkness.
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