Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Bitter Is Mixed With the Sweet

Tonight, Holy Thursday, is one of my favorite nights of the year. It is the night our family celebrates Passover together. We have done it for several years now. Because we are Christians, the ceremony takes a turn at the point where the afikomen is found and where we drink the third cup--because those are the points during Christ's Last Supper with His disciples when He first instituted what we celebrate as Communion.

While we normally hold this celebration at our house, this year we took everything over to my parents'. My dad had done what is normally my mom's job--the laying of the linen cloths and the best goblets, china, and silver. I prepared the Seder plate and the special meal.

We all came to the table, and Darren read some of my favorite words of the ceremony, "All who are hungry, come and eat. All who are needy, come and celebrate Passover with us. Now we celebrate it here. Next year, may we celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Now we are slaves. next year, may we be truly free."

I listened to my little girls voices chant quietly in the candlelight: "Father, why is this night different from other nights?"

We did all the parts the children enjoy so--hiding and finding the afikomen (and getting a prize!), putting 10 drops of wine on our plates: one drop for each of the plagues, and opening the door for Elijah.

All of us adults explained to them our story, who we are--our God saved the Israelites through Moses, and our God saved us through Jesus.

The theme of the meal is that the bitter is mixed with the sweet. Joy does not come alone. It is mixed with suffering and tears.

This year it was all very bittersweet for me. As far as I know, this is the last Seder meal we will have with my mom. And my parents told us tonight that they will not be able to celebrate Easter with us. My mom cannot do it. She does not have the strength. That was something I had been hanging on to, something I had been praying for--that I would have this last Easter with her, that we would stand in the flower-filled sanctuary together and sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" and end with the "Hallelujah Chorus." I have so many good memories of this with her, especially Lucy's first Easter when I slipped out at the end of the sermon and ran back up with my baby so she could hear "Hallelujah" too, and my mom and I held her together and sang our hearts out.

As with so many things, I think, "I wish I had known. I wish I had know that [whatever] was the last time I would do this with her. I would have held on to it more."

The end of the traditional Seder is for all around the table to raise the fourth and final glass and say together, "Next year, in Jerusalem!" As Christians, we raise our glasses and say, "Next year, in the new Jerusalem!"

Normally, since this is a religious ceremony, we don't take pictures during it. But tonight I asked Darren to take a picture at the beginning of the service--this is when the mother lights the Passover candles. This was one of the few times my mom was able to stand this evening:

I will not lie. I am so thankful for all He has done for us. But tonight...tonight was very painful. I want my mom to be there for many years--lighting the candles and helping us tell the story to our children. I hurt to think that next year, I will probably light the candles alone. I will probably have to read the parts of the service that are hers. It seems like just below the hurt? There's just more hurt.

I say with all my heart that I hope we are all together in the new Jerusalem next year.

But even if not...

He is just as good as ever.


Katie said...

Darrin's reading reminds me of Isaiah 55 and the middle of that chapter "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace. What a promise for you this Easter.

Blessings, Katie

Jill said...

Thinking of you often and continuing to pray for your Mom and your whole family - Hope you have a blessed Easter....


Melanie said...

Thinking of your, praying for you. I'm hoping you have a good Easter though I know it will be hard not spending it with your mom. This post was so moving - I'm so glad you broke with tradition and had Darren take the photo of you and your mom lighting the candles. Definitely an image you and the girls will be so grateful to have for many years to come.

Juliet said...

Thanks so very very much for sharing these precious family traditions with us.

God grant you His grace this coming Sunday.

Ann-Marie said...

Oh, Alice! Next year in new Jerusalem! Those words brought tears. I think of you and your mom so often now. My heart is with you this Easter, and I'll be thinking of you and praying for God's strength and comfort.

May new Jerusalem come soon for all of us.

Danny Lucas said...

"Please ask God for whatever you feel that you want, and God will do what God feels is best for you and for everyone else in the world. Sometimes that includes taking somebody to heaven, and we can't understand it at times. But when we get to heaven, we will understand it, and we'll know that everything was for the best in God's view."
----Fred Rogers

(when asked by Amy Hollingsworth on behalf of a child why her grandmother died, even though she prayed for her.)

Amy went on to write "Gifts of Passage",
What The Dying Tell Us With The Gifts They Leave Behind.

You taught love; so I love you Lois.

You taught us praise Him always; so I dance with Jesus in my heart, Lois.

You taught us to laugh; so I chuckle inside when I think of your life, Lois.

You taught us to think of others across the globe; so I think of YOU, and pray for YOU, Lois.

If you were a teacher, you would get a golden apple award.

But you are a spouse, so you get the Good Wife award. (Proverbs 31)

And you are a mom; so umbilical cords are cut, but invisible cords of love are interwoven each breath a mom takes, and they bind forever.

And you are a gramma; so the Ambassador for Christ award does not go to another country, it goes to a new generation who know Christ, thanks to Ambassador Lois.

And you are a friend of the Lord; so you hear His voice: "Well done, good and faithful servant".

The Bible tells us "you will know them by their fruit".
I know your fruit named Alice....

and THAT makes you special Lois.

On this Good Friday of 2009, you have established a love that lasts more than a lifetime....your love lasts for eternity.

The final thing my mom said to me when she had completed precisely Four Score and Seven Years on this planet,born May 21, 1921 and died May 21, 2008 was a refrain she often asked me:

"Tell me again where we are going to meet in heaven, Danny?"

"Revelations tells us heaven has four walls and each wall has three gates.
Go to the Eastern wall.
I'll meet you just inside the middle Eastern gate", I answered every time.

I read that from a fun guy and I want to meet him, and ALL the fun people I know are gathering precisely there with the Lord.
(my own children know where to meet too).

Lois, Happy Easter.....
I'll meet you just inside the middle Eastern gate.
(Tell my mom I love her too).