Sunday Morning ~ Solitary Easter
Sunga khosi, mkanda uoneka. ~ Keep your neck, the pearl will come.
~ Chewa proverb.
April 12, 2020
Well, this is different. Easter was always like Christmas here: kids home, big meals, good china, nice cocktails, and complicated desserts. The Italian Easter bread took three days to make. I always made both a chocolate torte and five layer lemon cake. There were years when the table was set for sixteen. Today I’m trying to decide if I even want to cook a meal. I missed having all the holy week services. I missed the joyful, hopeful spirit of the Easter mass. So far the only ritual I’ve maintained is listening to Jesus Christ Superstar yesterday. That just never gets old.
When I was in Congo, dropped in the middle of one of the remotest spots on earth, there was celebrating on this day. People in the villages were singing. I wondered how they knew it was Easter. They had no calendar. That’s how I know when it is. I look at the calendar when I start planning for the spring and find out when Easter is. So it was eerily beautiful to hear people singing their praise of their risen lord in a land where hope was all but eradicated. Inspiring. Enchanting, really.
I got something in the mail this week from my friend Jack who is a priest in Boston. It came in a business envelope and looked official. I saw the parish name on the return address and panicked. His correspondence is usually in a card-like envelope, the ones that are nice to get because they look like actual mail from someone you know who is not asking for money. The envelope made of sturdy paper in a 3×5 size is such a joy to find in the box. When I saw the official looking envelope I began shaking and could hardly get it open. I stood in the street not worried about traffic; unable to wait until I got to the house to see what it was. I had just seen the death numbers for Boston. I looked again at my name and address. It looked like his handwriting. That calmed me down a little. I thought maybe a request for a donation? But that would be uncharacteristic. My mind swept through the holy weeks we’d spent together as I pulled the green paper out. I looked straight to the bottom first to see his name, let out the breath I’d been holding, then read the message. I stopped at “Do not be afraid!” and read that again. It was a beautiful Easter message from my friend who is still alive. I laid my head against the mailbox and started sobbing. I’m constantly worried about who will be next. I finally walked back up the driveway.
I thought of the holy weeks when I was at Boston College and Jack was at St. John’s Seminary. Holy Thursday the washing of the feet, Good Friday fasting and Stations of the Cross walking with incredible beauty of prayerful ritual through the passion and crucifixion. Saturday I’d go home and be with my family preparing, usually helping decorate the church, prepping the meal. Saturday night was the Easter vigil, another favorite of mine as light spread slowly over the church as a flame was passed from person to person. It’s funny, when I think of it now all I can think of is how close together we were. It was a time when I was considering joining a convent. Seriously. I knew so many wonderful, smart nuns who were loving and giving and confident. They seemed content and peaceful and I was longing for that. Jack and I would walk for hours and miles around Boston talking about our futures. We’d find ourselves on Arch St. and bop in for mass, which I think they had every hour every day. Then we’d land back out on the sidewalk and continue our r/amble until finally one of us had to go back to our respective dorms for something or other. I don’t know how much more screwed up I was than others at that age, but it’s my recollection that I was a mess. A lot. I don’t know how he put up with me. It was always some drama with my family or my classes or friends. He’d listen, support, sometimes call me on my own shit, but in a nice way. I never doubted he loved me for who I was, even when I was an idiot. In the end, the convent came off the list as I wanted a family. Maybe to try to create the one I always wanted, but that’s what I finally decided. And Jack continued on into the priesthood, which, I truly believe is what he was born for. I love seeing him say mass and interact with his parishioners. When he was in Brookline we’d go to a local restaurant/bar and I loved the older Irish guys saying, “Hey Faatha!” rosy cheeked and smiling, shaking hands and clapping backs. It is thinking of him surrounded by the families he’s helped, introducing me to people as I stood by him after mass, seeing the look of love and admiration on their faces that made me terrified for his life. He has saved mine so many times and I know I’m not the only one.
Happy Easter everyone. Please stay safe.
Love to all,