By Jaime Fitzgerald
This year I was not feeling Holy Week. When I thought about sitting in a congregation celebrating the coming into town of Jesus it made me nauseous. I absolutely adore children, but Palm Sunday this year filled my stomach with butterflies of anxiety as I imagined beautifully dressed boys and girls carrying palm leaves down the center aisle while singing songs of celebration. Therefore, instead of attending church I slept in and made myself a scrumptious breakfast to rationalize in my own mind my decision to attend Bedside Baptist instead of worshipping within community.
This season of life I found myself in, was filled to the brim with death and despair rather than resurrection and reconciliation. As I scrambled eggs and sliced strawberries, something deep within felt off kilter. My mind and heart were both raw because three weeks prior to Palm Sunday I was with loved ones in Virginia preparing to bury my father and in turn, the last thing I wanted was to celebrate Palm Sunday with my community of faith.
I knew Holy week would function different from any other I celebrated because death was no longer and abstract idea but rather a surrounding shadow of suffocation from joy and life. Knowing that Holy Week was not about to magically disappear, I decided to create a sense of newness within the deep brokenness of my soul through planning a Maundy Thursday meal with friends. Friends were invited into my home, and instead of sharing a traditional Seder meal, we each shared a food of remembrance with one another. I asked each friend to bring with them a food with a story, one that could be memories of pure joy or great sorrow. The food could be a remembrance of something from the past or something fresh and raw. Thursday came, my excitement rose, and tears fell as my grandmother shared with me her recipe for deviled eggs, which my Dad and I both loved.
My Dad and I would always take the leftover eggs home in a Tupperware container because of our love for them. Friends arrived at our home and we shared a meal together on the living room floor by candlelight, while telling the story behind each food represented. We shared orange soda floats, tuna salad, meatloaf, lifesavers, cookies, and much more. As we partook of the Maundy Thursday meal, we laughed and we teared up as we shared the stories behind the meal in front of us. Once we finished eating, we took the bread and the cup as a reminder of the Body of Christ broken for each one of us and the blood of Christ that was shed for us. As we left the sacred space of community, together we sung the hymn Amazing Grace.
The morning of Holy Saturday, I went to my Grandparent’s house to visit and what I noticed first was the refrigerator full of pictures of my Dad and our family. I could feel the waterfall of my eyes about to burst, so I began to chop food for the Easter meal to get my mind off the sadness. A few moments later, my Grandmother began to list off the foods she planning to cook and my heart rate increased as I awaited the words, ‘deviled eggs’ which to my surprise did not make the list. She continued, “Kim offered to bring Deviled Eggs.” The waterfall of tears erupted from my eyes at the speed of Niagara Falls as I melted into a heaping pile of tears. Together in that kitchen was sacred space where my grandparents and I remembered my Dad with tears and stories and hugs.
Easter came, just as it does every year, and it was by far the hardest holiday I have ever encountered. As I sat on the 4th row pew with my grandparents, uncle, aunt, mom, and brother my heart did not feel like the resurrection had taken place because all I could picture is my Dad’s casket at the front of the sanctuary where we had been just four weeks earlier celebrating the life of a wonderful man.
This year, Easter for you may have been full of celebration or maybe sadness and grief filled the day. Thank God, the table of Christ is big enough for all of our heartaches, longings, laughter, and desires. Just as Christ took time to be with his loved ones, his community, his tribe, we too need that space in our own lives. May we embrace community around us and be community as well. May we open our hearts and homes so that we too may remember as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ? My hope for all of us is that somewhere in the middle of our despair, we can find beauty in knowing that we are not alone and that our story matters. I hope that when death seems overwhelming, we all have a ‘deviled egg experience’ that reminds us of the beauty of life and the timelessness of memories.
Jaime Fitzgerald is a CBF Vestal Scholar attending Gardner-Webb School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, N.C.
Superbly written. My tears and I joined you today with both grief and amazing joy!
Thank you! Communal tears are most definitely healing tears!