Notes from the Wayside – April 2023
municipality of Fischbach, Austria
When I logged into Facebook on Easter Sunday, the photos I saw posted by friends revealed the joy of the holiday: smiling little girls in puffy pink Easter dresses, happy families gathered together for Church and feasting, dogs wearing bunny ears, giggling children carrying bright baskets and hunting for Easter eggs. It was a veritable barrage of cuteness and good cheer.
This was not how Easter went down at the House of Ludwig.
My two girls, Sabina and Gesumina, both had high fevers with nasty sore throats, runny noses (which they wiped on my shirt) and phlegmy coughs (which they let loose in my face). Though they were exhausted and miserable they still had enough energy to spend the day fighting over who had eaten the last watermelon popsicle, whether to watch “Bluey” or “Thomas the Tank Engine” on TV, and who was the most pitiful and deserved the most attention. My son Cirocco, seeing that Mom and Dad were preoccupied caring for the two sick girls, took the opportunity to sneak off and eat all of the candy in his Easter basket; and when that went undetected, proceeded to eat all of the candy in his sisters’ Easter baskets as well. This inevitably resulted in a horrible bellyache that had him curled up in a ball on the floor, holding his stomach. Yes, the whole day was crying, screaming, fighting, drama in every corner. Hardly the Easter celebration I’d planned, and certainly not the one I wanted.
But by nighttime when the kids and I were camped out in the living room where we had arranged mattresses and comfy chairs into a sort of makeshift sick-ward, all was peaceful. The TV quietly played a soothing cartoon about puffins and seals, and all of us huddled together in the cozy dark. We talked about how we would laugh in 2024 about what a disaster Easter had been in 2023. With this consoling thought they finally fell asleep, Cirocco still holding my hand. We were safe, together, and though the day was hard, we’d managed to make it through okay.
I laid on the couch, watching my little ones sleep, and thought about how our Easter was such a perfect metaphor for Holy Week. Our house had been full of pain and suffering that none of us would have chosen (the “Good Friday” piece) but in the end, we stuck it out and were a comfort to each other. Love had triumphed in our family that day; this was Resurrection, right here, in my home, there was light shining in the darkness.
Now if this was a fairy tale, or a Disney movie, my day would’ve ended right there with this touching scene, because we always expect—demand—that stories will end with a happily-ever-after. But rarely in real life do things resolve themselves so neatly, such that we can wrap them in a tidy package with a nice little bow. And my Easter was no different.
So as I lay there, having all my profound spiritual thoughts and feeling very sanctimonious indeed that I’d managed to make meaning out of such a crappy day, Sabina woke up yelling and upset. She’d accidentally wet the bed, and as I helped her peel off her soaked jammies let’s just say other unfortunate bodily secretions plopped out onto the couch as well. And so began Easter Misery: Nighttime Edition. I was not pleased.
When I finally did get to sleep at an ungodly hour, I had to laugh at myself for presuming that my “Holy Week” of a day would have a nice schmaltzy ending. It’s so like us humans to want to squish something as majestic and awe-inspiring as the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Christ into a neat, linear story arc. Things are bad, and then they’re good; everything goes to pot, and then God fixes it, the end. This makes sense to us, and we like that it’s simple and uncomplicated.
Yet we don’t celebrate Easter because Jesus’ rising from the dead “fixed” everything. It certainly didn’t for his disciples, most of whom were martyred during the years following the Resurrection in increasingly gruesome ways (word to the wise: if you are squeamish do not look up the martyrdom of St. Bartholomew.) The Resurrection, the ultimate victory of God’s love, didn’t mean that darkness never had its say again, even in the lives of Jesus’ closest friends. Which means that, unfortunately, darkness will have its say in our lives, too, as many of us can personally attest. The Resurrection wasn’t a cure-all, and evil still wins a hand now and again.
But evil hasn’t won, and never will win, that which is most precious to God: us. We do not belong to the evil one, we belong to God. We are His. So while experiences of light and dark will ebb and flow in our lives, and the trajectory of darkness into light may not be as simple and linear as we’d like it to be, ultimately, what God has won for us in the Resurrection is ourselves, our very souls, and their eternal dwelling place with the One we love.
So yes, my Easter holiday this year was awful, I won’t sugar coat it. Illness, stress, and discord won the day. But what matters most to me, my beautiful children, my wonderful husband, and my loving God, could never obscured by one (really) bad day. Darkness may have robbed me of a Happy Easter, but it didn’t rob me of my soul.
…Though watching 10 straight hours of “Thomas the Tank Engine” came pretty darn close.
August 22, 2023
I just read your beautiful reflection from today's Faber Newsletter--I can't begin to imagine how you cope (having had several just short term periods of dealing with physical pain and now the ongoing diminishments that come with aging). I will keep you in my prayers.
I first heard you tell your story when you spoke about it at the Novena St. Ignatius Church does every year---"your" streaming presentation worked, unfortunately for many of the rest, not so much. :-( Like most, having seen you twice in person, could not believe you've been coping with this.
I then clicked down to read other reflections I might have missed and did intend months ago to comment when you wrote about your daughter's speech disability, I did remember you sharing that you had a child (or two?) with special needs. I simply wanted to Comment to let you know what you write is read, is meaningful and appreciated.
I even emailed your office then because I couldn't figure out why clicking on the word Name etc. didn't work. Mary emailed back explaining how I needed to click below the word to get the box to enter one's name. Of course, then I never took the time to got back and send you a Message.
Today, however, I read your Easter reflection that I had missed and it made me Laugh Out Loud. I'm still smiling. It was SO REAL, having had some parenting and grandparenting days and nights like yours!
Tara, thank you for sharing your life with so many. You're a talented, beautiful, meaningful, thoughtful etc. etc. writer and speaker. You bless us!
God's Peace to you and yours,
Carol Anne Padgett (part of the Vancouver contingent that sometimes makes it to Portland and met you when you
you spoke at Our Lady of Lourdes first Women's Retreat. Two of us had recommended you
when they were looking for speakers. :-)