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.