I’m sitting on my front porch, typing. A glass of sparkling water with pieces of fruit in it beside me. The sunlight streams across the wooden slats for a few seconds, hides behind the clouds for a few more. A storm is rolling in later tonight, the breeze and heat perfectly balanced.
I’ve been trying all week to find time to write about Easter. The Holy Week. Something. Anything. And while life has been prohibitively busy, I’ve also found that something is stopping me. A heavy settling in depth of my chest, that rises up close to tears when I try to find the words.
My childhood Easter was often celebrated at sunrise, when the morning chill hadn’t really burnt off, outside with the wet grass sticking to our patent leather white shoes and goose bumps covering our arms as we had promised our parents that we wouldn’t need a sweater to cover our cute new dresses. Songs from the choir and words from the pastor detailing the agony of the cross and the Hope of the resurrection. Beautiful in its simplicity and standardization. Egg hunts and Easter baskets and lunches of ham and potato salad.
Growing up in a small southern Baptist church in a rural community in the deep south, we celebrated Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. I knew nothing of Ash Wednesday or Lent or Holy Week. We talked about Good Friday, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was called Good. There were other churches in our community that draped the crosses on the lawns with purple, with black, with white and it always caught my breath with the ceremony and beauty, but I never understood the significance.
Today is Maundy Thursday. Another one of the sacred observations that I’ve only come to mark as an adult exploring outside my childhood upbringing. But as with each of the other days in the Easter season, it hits me squarely and points me once again to the unbelievable love of Jesus. The Last Supper of Jesus with the disciples. How He washed their feet and fed them. How He explained the bread and the body, the wine and the blood. And how He commanded them to love others as He loved them. And how He did all of this even as he knew of the upcoming betrayal, denials, pain.
But yet my words won’t come.
My grandmother is dying. Ninety-two and her health is failing and hospice has been called in. She is a woman whose life has not been easy, but whose heart has always been for Jesus. Eight pregnancies, 6 children, a career military husband who was gone far too often, who had no interest in her religion. Moving from place to place to place, an adult child who died before her, in his prime. My earliest memories of her are as she cooked and cleaned and served. She always sent us home with extra food, with a dollar or two tucked into our pockets. She would take my hand in hers, pat it, and tell me that I was special. She sang or hummed hymns as she worked around the house, she had a piano in her living room that she was always begging us to play, and she always clapped and beamed at us, no matter how horrendously we banged on the keys and mangled the melodies. She went to church, by herself, every week for as long as she was able. She prayed as she breathed – without ceasing.
She began showing some signs of dementia years ago, and in the last few it has gotten progressively worse, as it does for everyone. But through it all, that servant’s heart, the caring for others, the love for Jesus has never waned.
I went to visit her a few days ago, honestly a long and exhausting trip in the middle of a season of extreme busyness already. I visit with her for a few minutes, chatting about nothing and everything. I tell her how the kids have grown and how much they love her. She holds my hand and pats it and tells me that I’m special. I tell her that the kids all love music and love to sing. Around the house, in the shower, making up songs about bugs – whatever. She smiles at the stories. I show her pictures of the kids and she lights up in recognition for a second.
I need to move my car so the nurse can leave at shift change, and my grandmother looks concerned.
“Are you leaving?” she asks. “No, Mimi.” I say, “I just need to move my car and I’ll be right back.”
She looks confused, but she holds out her hand for the keys that I’m holding. “Do you want me to hold your car?”
“No thank you, Mimi. I’ll be right back.”
Confused and not really sure who I am all the time – and still her first thought is to help me with whatever I’m doing. So many things missing from her memories and understanding, but that ingrained desire to help, to serve, to love has still not faltered.
She is my Maundy Thursday.
To love others as He loved them. Beautiful in its simplicity.
My grandmother has lived it well, a daily foot washer of others, who sees each of us as lovely and special, who has loved us all so well because of her love of Jesus.