Ten years ago this Easter my mother was in a secured memory care unit of the Atria Westchase assisted living complex in Houston, Texas. Pretty and I had just bought a second home in Montgomery, Texas so I could be closer to Mom as her dementia progressed. On that Easter Sunday in 2010 I arrived in time for a chapel service before lunch with my mom. After lunch, well, here’s what happened…
The traditional Easter egg hunt came to us mid-afternoon through the children of the staff members. The day was beautiful, and the fenced courtyard area was the perfect setting for a party. Those in our lunch group pushed their walkers or were wheeled outside into the bright sunlight, those who could sat in the Adirondack chairs under the portico. I met three other daughters who were visiting their mothers that day which made me glad I was there with my mother, too.
The Latino women who were the caregivers for the memory care unit brought their children to enjoy the search for the pastel colored plastic eggs filled with candy in the tranquil setting of the facility’s outdoors. Eggs were hidden everywhere, including on and around the residents. Jim, a tall, sad, unshaven man who never spoke and struggled to move opened the chocolate egg Rosa placed in his shirt pocket; he ate the candy before the kids arrived. No one tried to stop him including my mother who in days of yore would have surely reprimanded him in her best elementary school teacher tone.
The small group of children burst into the courtyard with an exuberance all youngsters bring to filling an Easter basket. Ages ranged from four to twelve, with one six-month-old baby girl held by her mother. They were dressed in their Sunday best. Little boys wore ties with their jackets, little girls wore pretty spring dresses. It could’ve been a movie set, I thought, because they were strikingly beautiful shildren. They flew around grabbing eggs with gusto as their baskets filled quickly. They were noisy, laughing, talking – incredibly alive.
It was the resurrection. For a few brief minutes, the stones were rolled away from the minds buried deep in the tombs of the bodies that kept them hidden. The children raced around the residents searching for treasures, exclaiming with delight when one was discovered. One little boy overlooked a blue egg under a wheel chair, and my mother tapped his shoulder to point it out to him. He was elated and flashed a brilliant smile at her. She responded with a look of pure delight. The smiles and the murmurings of the elderly were clear signs of their obvious joy that proclaimed the reality of Easter in those moments. Hallelujah. We were all risen.
Memories were made and lost that afternoon. The children who came to the place where their mothers worked to find eggs among the old people were unlikely to forget this day. Years from now some will tell the stories of the Easter Egg Hunt with the Ancient Ones. The stories will be as different as their own journeys will take them. For my mother and her friends, no stories will be told because they won’t remember. My mother doesn’t know I was there for her on Easter this year which is not unexpected. But I remember I was, and it is enough for both of us.
I was born on another Easter Sunday morning in April 1946, and that makes the year 2010 my sixty-fourth Easter. I recollect a few of the earliest Easters from my childhood: sacred religious days for my loving Southern Baptist family who rarely missed a worship service on any Sunday of the year but never at Christmas or Easter. I also remember having a hard time finding eggs in the church hunts. My baskets never runneth over. But to be honest, in recent years Easter Sundays had been difficult to distinguish from any other day of the week.
When I moved away from my family in Texas in my early twenties to explore my sexual identity, I didn’t know I’d be gone for forty years. I also had no way of knowing one of the costs of my freedom from family togetherness was my absence from family rituals. Distance, travel time, money, job obligations, girlfriends—these were the obstacles I had to overcome for visits home. Or maybe they were just excuses. I usually made the trip home at Christmas and less frequently one more time in the summer. But never for Easter.
This Easter was special for me because it was a day with no excuses necessary. I shared a Sunday sundae with my mother for lunch today at a table neither of us could have envisioned a few years before. Today was just the two of us, and if there were barriers between us that once seemed too impenetrable, they were now lost in the cobwebs of time.
We were all risen, indeed.
(This is an excerpt from my third book, I’ll Call It Like I See It.)