I loved Easter long before I appreciated its religious significance–the excitement of the Easter Bunny, the new clothes, the family dinner, the egg hunt, and most of all the springtime. It’s my favorite holiday as an adult, not just because for Christians it is the climax of the Church year, but because it is a fun family time that is not as demanding as Christmas and which takes place at the time of year that makes me happiest.
This was our first Easter in a new home, and we had a wonderful time. We put the kids at our new outside table, and later we all sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful day. But it was an emotional day, too. The evening before, both my mother and my youngest sister were present at the Easter Vigil service at our church, Immaculate Conception. There was a freakish accident involving the sacred fire from which the Easter Candle was to be lit. My mother saw our deacon and two altar servers catch on fire. My sister and my niece, just arriving, heard the screams and knew that something was terribly wrong. We have known Patrick, one of the servers, since he was born, and he is in my son’s class at Knoxville Catholic High School, so we were particularly upset and worried about him.
I haven’t been to the Easter Vigil in years, as much as I loved it as a child, because a service that lasts from nine until midnight just doesn’t work well with five children. So I got my first inklings of the news from a Facebook post, more from WBIR’s Twitter feed, and the rest from a phone call to my mother who had stepped out of Mass (which did go on, and how our pastor did it is a miracle itself). As you might imagine, we thought of little else the rest of the evening, even as we went about the usual holiday preparations, filling baskets, rolling out dough.
Father Joe rose to the occasion again at Mass the next morning, encouraging us to sing out those alleluias, upset as we all were. Then during the Prayers of the Faithful came another blow when we were asked to pray for the soul of Bob DeWine, who had died just an hour before. His death was not tragic–he was 90 years old, and died surrounded by his family on Easter Sunday morning, surely a significant and blessed day for a Christian to enter New Life. But how the church will miss him! How difficult it was that morning, to celebrate and sing the joyful songs while death and tragedy were still so near.
The three people injured in the blaze are going to be O.K. The deacon and his daughter are still being treated at the burn center at Vanderbilt; Patrick has been released and is recovering at home. Bob DeWine is celebrating Easter in Heaven this year. Resurrection takes on a new meaning for all of us this Easter season.