Since my mom can't be with us on Easter, today we brought Easter over to her. I dressed the girls in their dresses and fixed their hair, and they brought an Easter basket they had made for their Manga. Sweets don't appeal to her anymore, so we filled a basket with moss and put in a tiny bird's nest, some little shells and flowers, and a couple of butterflies. Darren brought his trombone and played "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" for her. We also brought her Kent Hughes' sermon on John 11 so she could listen tomorrow during church time.
There are many days and times I am and can be sad. Tomorrow though is not going to be one of them. Last Friday, I brought Mom a book and CD for Holy Week. I bought us the same one, only a kids' version. The CD was of Holy Week hymns, and the book contained devotionals that went along with each hymn.
One of the devotionals just laid me bare. I hope I'm not violating a ton of copyright laws, but I'm going to share it here because you just have to read it. It's by Joni Eareckson Tada from the book What Wondrous Love Is This: Hymns of Wonder and Worship to Remember His Love (Crossway Books, 2002).
The Heart of the Hymn
by Joni Eareckson Tada
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
I Corinthians 15:55
I wish you could have been with my mother and me on that lovely late spring evening in June 2001. We were on her porch with the ocean to our backs, its breeze in our face, and watched the sun set over the bay. It was a moment to remember. In fact, it called for a hymn, and so we did what Mom and I always did when watching a lovely sunset. We sang.
Our singing was especially poignant. My mother’s health was failing fast, and we knew we wouldn’t have her much longer. My husband, Ken, came out on the porch to snap a photo of me, Mom, and the sunset. The moment would end up being unforgettable. Two months later, my mother, Lindy Eareckson, went home to be with the Lord Jesus.
My mother’s remaining days were filled with pain and anguish. Old age and mini-strokes were staking their claim on my mother’s bright spirit until finally one afternoon, Mother released a deep sigh and left for Home.
My sisters asked if I would give a short message at our mother’s memorial service back in Maryland. At first I balked, thinking that I’d fall apart halfway through; then I realized it would be a chance to honor her among many extended family and friends. I decided yes and asked Ken and a few close friends to pray that God would give me an extra measure of grace. He did. My short speech about Mother’s life and her love of Christ was indeed a blessing. And I didn’t fall apart.
On our flight back to California, I continued to move through the same covering of grace. By the time we arrived at our house, the hour was late, and Ken and I were exhausted. We dropped our suitcases and took a minute to thumb through mail, noticing what were probably a few sympathy cards. I opened the first one. Something dropped out of the envelope. When I took a closer look, my chest tightened. It was an obituary from The Baltimore Sun. There in print I read: “Margaret J. Eareckson died August 21, 2001.” Hot tears filled my eyes. For the first time, I fell apart. The bare facts in the obituary were as cold and hard as ice.
I shoved the newspaper item aside and bravely opened another card. It was a card of sympathy from my friend Sandy. At least I thought it was a sympathy card. This one, however, looked different. On the front were lilies, and on the inside were the words of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” It was an Easter card. Sandy had written, “Joni, somehow this Easter card expresses more what I want to say. Your lively happy mother is free from pain, and isn’t it good to know that we will all be reunited at the resurrection. I’m so glad He arose.”
The warmth and joy of the resurrection melted the cold-as-ice fact of my mother’s death. Fresh hope and confidence infused me, and in the next moment I almost sang. In fact, I did sing—“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!” Never were there better words of sympathy than this reminder from my friend of the resurrection of Christ. Because Jesus arose, we have the happy assurance that one day we, too, shall rise and be reunited with our Lord and our loved ones. Oh, joy! My mother is safe and secure, all because Christ our Lord is risen!
Sending an Easter card upon hearing of someone’s death? Some might say, “Nah, stick with tradition.” I say that tradition can always use an upgrade. And so, in honor of Lindy, I’m holding on to a few Easter cards…just in case someone grieving needs a little reassurance of the soothing comfort of Christ’s resurrection.
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high; Alleluia!
Sing ye heav’ns and earth, reply. Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head; Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise; Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies; Alleluia!
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!" Luke 24:4-6