I have a million thoughts about Easter Sunday 2009. . . but they finally came into sharp focus this evening when I called up a dear lady here in Racine named Edith. She is Jewish and a Holocaust survivor – she and her parents were extremely fortunate to escape Germany with their lives and build new lives for themselves here in America. I have recorded an extensive interview with her about her childhood in Germany and her family’s narrow escape from the Nazi horror. . . and she wanted to listen to it before it airs, in case there’s anything that should be excised from it. (This is an important story and she wants to make certain that she told it well and accurately.) Anyway, I realized that in all the busyness of Holy Week, I had neglected to get this tape recording to Edith when I said I would, so I called her early this evening to offer to bring it right over. She very sweetly replied, “but today is your Easter. Wouldn’t you rather come tomorrow?”
I love how she said that- first of all because she was trying her best to be respectful of this important day for Christians . . . and also because that phrase (somewhat inadvertently) underscores how a celebration like Easter is likely to play out uniquely for each one of us, depending on who we are and what this days means for us.
What was “my” Easter today?
. . . . A day rich with magnificent music and music-making. I felt so blessed to be standing in front of that church choir of mine, who went from strength to strength as the morning progressed, singing everything so well. Special praise goes to my wife Kathy, who for twenty consecutive Easter Sundays has sung the solo for “Resurrection” – a neat song that I first learned back in high school and which, to the best of my knowledge, has never been published. Once again, it gave shivers to all. Our youth choir and sunday school choir did great at the middle service, looking adorable and – more importantly – singing joyously. I was also happy with our young trumpeters who did a nice job . . . although we narrowly averted disaster at one point. It turns out that when I wrote out the brass parts a month ago, I thought that “Alleluia! Jesus is Risen” would be the hymn of the day. But somehow when it came time to turn in the hymn numbers to the secretary, the hymn of the day had become “Christ is Risen, Alleluia” – a very similar title, but an entirely different hymn. And as our organist played the introduction to the hymn of the day at the sunrise service, I could see this bewildered and stricken look on the trumpeter’s faces, and indeed they didn’t play – despite the firm downbeat I gave them. If they had played, we would have had the organ playing one hymn while the brass played another, resulting in a mighty ugly cacophony that would have probably killed the Easter Lilies adoring the altar. (The problem was rectified in time for the next service.) That was an unexpected but much appreciated Easter Miracle today.
. . . A day in which I got quite a few compliments, although I am rather chagrined to say that I got twice as many compliments for my shirt as I did for today’s music. That may sound a little odd – but you have to understand that the shirt I was wearing today is about as Easter-ish as a shirt could possibly be. . . panels and wide stripes of pink, light blue, light green – as though a shirt maker at Brooks Brothers had gone crazy with their egg-dyeing kit as some sort of Easter prank. (As amazing as it may sound, the most subtle thing about my outfit was my tie. . . the lovely solid pastel green tie I wore as a groomsman for Trevor Parker’s wedding last summer. It was perfect. So for once, the tie was understated and it was the shirt itself that was wild.) Anyway, the first few compliments were much appreciated but by the end of the morning I really was started to get self-conscious about it and more than a little bewildered that my shirt seemed to create a bigger splash than anything that really mattered this morning. But then a Facebook friend pointed out that some people probably are hesitant to offer compliments about music if they are not musically astute- but nobody feels like they need a degree from fashion design school to compliment someone else’s outfit.
. . . A day for the Easter Bunny as well, courtesy of our niece Lorelai – – – who, by the way, has been very carefully taught the real meaning of Easter by her parents – – – but who very much enjoys the Easter Bunny’s part in the holiday as well. We were there for brunch today and Lorelai was in delightful form (when isn’t she, these days?) – so appreciative of the Easter goodies she had been given and just happy as could be to be surrounded by loving family. That’s obviously another important theme of this special day . . .
. . . A day for packing, because Kathy leaves for Florida tomorrow morning. The timing of this trip is both perfect and awful . . . perfect because this is when we really need such a getaway, but awful because Holy Week has left us with very little time for planning and packing and such. But I just tucked Kathy into bed about ten minutes ago and she seemed to think that she has everything she needs. (And as our friend Bob Conner likes to say, if we forgot something, “They have stores in Florida.” Boy, do they ever!)
. . . A day to visit my new friend Edith – and in doing so, to be reminded that her particular story is a sort of Easter story (Jewish though she may be) because it’s a story of Life after Death . . . Light from Darkness . . . Evil thwarted by Goodness . . . Joy after Sorrow . . . Hope in the midst of Hopelessness . . .
pictured above: The cross at the front of the Holy Communion sanctuary. I took this picture from behind the cross, looking out towards the congregation. There’s something about the camera angle which makes the cross appear to be fifty-feet tall! And I love how the Easter lilies at the foot of the cross look almost like trumpets in mid-song.