As a backsliding Baptist turned moderate Methodist, I never felt comfortable being the type of churchgoer that only attended services on those days every other member of faith poured out of the woodwork.
Not that it made them bad people, but it meant you were sitting with people you normally didn’t see and looked like some were just trying to get their church card punched.
“Heathens,” Granny would hiss.
It irritated her if someone she hadn’t seen since Christmas showed up at our church on Easter and found themselves plopped down in her pew, in her spot.
She was as bad as Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory” about telling someone they were in her spot. It didn’t matter if there was a pew behind or in front of the one where she normally sat. She was fixed in her ways and as she told one visitor one Sunday, “I’m here every week—you ain’t. So, move it.”
Of course, the old gal was in tight with the Big Guy, so she may have been able to have unleashed some locusts right there or struck the interlopers down with lightning had the offenders not scooted down to other end.
But Easter Sunday was an event.
It involved white shoes, some pastel dress that made me look like a chubby Easter egg and an Easter egg hunt at a church member’s house – usually alternately between the Potter’s or the Phillip’s. The egg hunt was usually the week before and it was always a bitter cold, as if winter was trying to get in one last hurrah.
But there we were, all lined up in the host’s living room, clutching our brightly colored basket as tight as we could, hoping to walk away with the most candy eggs and praying to get something good in the plastic eggs.
One year, some kid ran up behind me and grabbed some eggs out of my basket. If someone was willing to cheat on an Easter egg hunt, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around them. I think that was the year I decided I was getting too old to do the egg hunt.
Granny would get about five million hardened marshmallow eggs wrapped in plastic to put out for the egg hunt. It may have been closer to 50 but it looked like five million when in her gigantic basket. She knew how many were in there, too, down to the last technicolor lump.
“Don’t you go eating none of them, you hear me,” she warned. “I know exactly how many is in there and if it is off by one, I’ll know who got it.”
Her tone made me regret the three I had greedily chowed down. A sure-fire way to illicit Granny’s wrath, and truthfully, they were not worth it.
On Easter Sunday, Mama always stuck me in some yellow dress and pulled my hair so tight on top of my head I should still have a semi-facelift from it. I would have a horrific headache by the time the church service was finished.
Back then, there wasn’t a sunrise service that I recall. Maybe there was, and Granny just wasn’t going to it. It took us all morning to get to Sunday school at 10 a.m.; it would have been some sort of unmitigated disaster to arrive earlier. Plus, Granny was usually happy on Easter Sunday and when the Redhead Prime was cheery, we tried to keep her that way.
“Why does Easter make you so happy?” I asked her once as she was making one of her pineapple cakes a few days before.
“Because,” she said.
“Because,” she began. “I know Jesus died for me. I know he lives. It makes me happy to know I mattered enough to someone I never met that they died for me.”
This fact was one of those lingering things I thought of throughout most of my childhood, and even now.
It always made my heart so heavy to think how Mary knew she was giving birth to a son that would eventually die for all of us. And Jesus knew the outcome himself.
“Why didn’t he run?” I asked one day.
“Who?” Granny asked.
“Jesus,” I said. “Why didn’t he run? He knew what was going to happen. He knew it all. Why didn’t he just run away?”
Granny thought about this for a few minutes. Maybe she had thought about it herself, even though her whole life, Granny was not the type to run from anything. She usually ran straight towards whatever it was, yelling like a banshee the whole way.
“He couldn’t run,” she said simply.
“Yes, he could,” I said.
“That wasn’t the plan,” she said. “It wasn’t his destiny. He knew what he was born to do. That’s what makes Jesus different from the rest of us. He knew he was God’s son and he was going to die to save all of humanity. He was the lamb, and he did it anyway. For us.”
This Sunday, many churches are celebrating Easter online with their congregations. There’s no churchwide egg hunts, and no seeing everyone’s Easter dresses, white shoes, and suits.
But it’s keeping us safe. It’s keeping us all alive and well and we’re doing our part to get through this.
A small sacrifice to make, even if it hurts.