What do you remember about Easter? So many friends I know have lost loved ones this past year. As a Christian, Easter is a special holiday for all of us. Easter is a powerful reminder of the love God has for all of us. A warning here, I almost became a minister. It colors how I see the world and this past year; it has helped me focus on the many important people in life during times of loss.
This week I lost my mother-in-law. She passed away Wednesday morning. She spent the past 6 months in hospice. It has been challenging for our family. Many of you have been along for the journey. Thank you! As several long term friends have noted my hair is little greyer and my face has a few more lines.
Easter reminds of a parent’s sacrifice for us
One of my fondest memories of my own mother was how we celebrated Easter in the church together. Many times, we spent time reading and sharing stories of her youth which included polio and 3 years in an iron long. My last gift to her was a CS Lewis Bible.
My mom had lived as a multi-racial child in the thirties in the Midwest. She had seen the worst side of racism and hatred firsthand. Her brother took his life because of it shortly after coming home from war. I’m not sure she ever fully recovered from this.
I can still remember visiting her in hospitals after she took shock therapies to try to turn her life around. I can still see and smell the hospital hallways. How darkly she saw the world. She fought depression much of her life.
Here’s why I celebrate Jesus this Easter week. How Jesus Christ Changed the World In Two Words!
Life is a battle that must be engaged
Her battles impacted my life as I went searching for a solution to her complex medical challenges. Constantly seeking answers. Working with many doctors and their teams to create more positive approaches to psychology, including strengths based psychology, appreciative inquiry, and emotional intelligence.
This personal journey put me in touch many of the world’s leading psychologists and psychiatrists. It also helps me be a powerful coach when helping clients deal with both personal and professional challenges.
Easter is about everlasting love
Here is the power of grace God shares with us. My mother-in-law Mary Rose couldn’t be more different in outlook than my mother. She was a joy to be around. She was a widowed at 50. Had a 14 year old daughter and struggled financially. She had nine brothers and sisters. Her parents came over from a little town in Italy. She had grown up in a small home where they got by on love and spaghetti.
Like so many of our parents she brought an incredible energy to our families. She had a married an Air Force Captain. She gave up her career to raise their family. She was proudly Catholic and, like my mother, had considered joining the convent. Both married men named Richard, and both were as tough and as inflexible as steel when it came to taking care of their families.
Finding humor in life’s challenges
Mary Rose had a fantastic sense of humor. She seemed to find ways to make the family laugh. She also had strongly held beliefs. Sometimes, it took her a while to see the humor in a given situation, but once she did, she always made us laugh about it.
Our nieces and nephews share many funny stories about Mom pretending to be Carmen Miranda and dancing around her kitchen, singing the banana song to get them to eat their vegetables. Despite the losses that would cripple many other people she always found a way to celebrate life.
What would you do to help others celebrate Easter?
She had nine brothers and sisters. I’m an only child. It was overwhelming when I first joined the family. She always found a way to make me comfortable, even if it meant finding a place for me to get away for a few minutes to just remain in balance.
Mary Rose found little ways to remind us that we were part of her family by finding just the perfect pie for family get togethers. Even making her brother drive around on Good Friday in Detroit looking for a banana crème pie because chocolate was just not good enough for her son-in-law.
A cheerleader for all her children
She was a cheerleader for all of us. She was an unapologetic advocate for our life decisions. When her siblings disagreed with our decisions, Mary Rose would smile and say they have a bigger plan. She loved all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren like a lioness. You always knew where she stood.
She never surrendered
She had her first stroke at 65. It was a massive stroke which meant she was not expected to recover her memory. We worked together to help rehabilitate her to live a more normal live. The stroke left her with less control of her emotions. She would laugh at the wrong time, for example, when my father died and cry at Hallmark movies. Which is not all that unusual. But then again I cry too.
She lived without her husband for 38 years. She found her love in romance novels, being a voracious reader throughout her life. We were always bringing her romance books when we visited. She just loved reading. She was always reading something to keep current with news and fashion trends sharing her thoughts with all who would listen.
Who is your lasting legacy?
How do you judge a person’s life? What is their lives legacy? Mary Rose raised three daughters to be engineers and technologists long before we had STEM. Because of own life story her daughters are fiercely independent as are her grandchildren and I’m assuming her great grandchildren.
A gift of learning and wisdom
Her son Jeff is also an engineer. Not bad for a woman never attended college outside a convent. Like his dad and mom, he prizes knowledge and learning above all else. He even married a librarian. My sister had their home library organized by the Dewey Decimal system. His wife has offered several times to help us reorganize our several thousand book library.
Who do you remember this Easter?
Now, what does this have to do with Easter? We don’t ever forget the loved ones we have lost. As importantly, we know we will see them again some day in heaven. They will be waiting for us there. When Mary Rose passed away, I got on my knees to pray for her. Then I realized almost instantly that she is reunited with the many people she loved in this life. Its going to be quite a party.
Then I got the Chiquita Banana song ringing in my head with Mary Rose hugging everyone. One of the hospice workers asked her who was she going to see when she got to Heaven. Quick as a whip, she said God. She was clear on who she wanted to see and spend eternity with! I might add she will be with her husband and her family members as the family is finally reunited.
Remember the joy of Easter
When you think of your loved one this Easter, take time to remember the good times, not the times before their death. When I worked in hospice, I had families share a time of great joy they had with their loved ones. A time of joy and happiness.
I ask them to picture a time of joy in their shared lives. Remember the feeling in the room, what are they wearing. What does it smell like? Then think of another event and then another.
Do this every day and you will soon be ready to continue with your life knowing you will see these people again. Isn’t that what Easter is all about?
Interesting in learning more about serving leadership? You can learn more about Jesus at How Jesus shared his serving leadership with the world!