I was thinking about my cousin Ann the other day while I was at the mega-store picking up some groceries. Are grocery stores the next thing to disappear as it becomes easier to pick things up like bread and juice, etc. while at Target or Walmart? Anyway, in the supermarket section there were all of these vegetable balloons. No Disney or other overly-marketed characters. Vegetables. It made me smile and think of Ann. As an herbalist and endless proponent of the wonders of vegetables she would have been thrilled, and I'm sure, bought them all on the spot (whether they were for sale or not — I suspect their purpose was decorative).
But being Easter week, I was already thinking about Ann.
Last Easter, Ann's last Easter, we spent it together, as we usually did. I suggested that Ann, who was also one of my daughter's godmothers, take her to church with her, if she felt up to it. Ann's cancer had spread and she was in the last stages of her illness. She was in constant pain, but she was thrilled to be able to share this experience with her godchild. She even provided a suitable Easter bonnet.
I'm not much of a participant in organized religion, but I do create my own rites and rituals. I believe in a higher power and celebrate the major Christian holidays (I was raised Episcopalian), but most of my deepest religious feelings have occurred contemplating art, both European and ancient, or visiting churches, cathedrals or other amazing historical architecture like the Pyramids.
As an adult, Easter was a holiday I always shared with Ann. Pre-mommyhood, the two of us would do some ritual/renewal sort of thing (after she got back from church), like visit a garden or some other similarly beautiful spot and then have a big Easter lunch at a local Greek restaurant. We loved the blood-red eggs and the breaking plates and the sense of celebration. Once my daughter was born we still continued going to the restaurant, but also dyed eggs together and enjoyed watching my daughter try to find where the Easter Bunny had hidden them. And we probably ate a bit more chocolate, too.
I feel that Ann is still a part of my life, but I can't pretend that without her here Easter just isn't the same. My daughter is still young enough to enjoy things like Easter Egg hunts and the Easter Bunny. The Ten Commandments will still run every year on television and I'll probably watch part (or most) of it. I know that today is a day when most are thinking about everlasting life and resurrection. But for me, the all-too-human reality of a life lost, and how daily life must shift and change to accomodate that sadness, a sadness that never really leaves you — that's what I'm thinking about on this Easter.