My Easter moment arrived on Good Friday.
Why do they call it “good” Friday?
My agnostic friends often ask, “What is good about it?”
Personally, I think the day could use a new name, like Freedom Friday.
This year I didn’t go to Good Friday service. I had a sleepover with my three grandbabies on Thursday for some early Easter joy. I spent Friday with them, then dropped them off and went to visit my mom.
I didn’t see the sadness coming, but sometimes, life flattens you in an instant, like a hit and run you never saw coming.
I was sailing along, buying groceries at the Giant Eagle to fill her fridge. My mom lives at Light of Hearts, a Catholic independent living facility. She has a small apartment that looks normal until you have to punch the secret code to leave her hall.
She gets three square meals there, but loves to have a stash of munchies in her kitchen. I bring her favorites, apples, grapes, diet Coke and potato chips.
She was down in the dining hall when I stopped at her room. The little bowl of salted nuts on the counter startled me. She had given up nuts for Lent and I kept forgetting and bringing her a new can every visit. Her cupboard was full of canned nuts. Somehow I kept forgetting, yet somehow my mother with Alzheimer’s never forgot. Until now.
I wrote in her calendar “Regina Was Here” and drew a big smiley face so she wouldn’t forget. But she will. She’ll forget I brought her the flowers. She’ll forget I stopped by on Friday.
At least she still remembers who I am.
I am her daughter.
I’ve morphed into her errand girl, bill payer, complaint taker, problem solver, personal shopper and ride to the dentist.
The truth is, I’ve never felt like anyone’s daughter. Not really. But that’s another story. Much longer. Probably a book.
When I opened her fridge and saw it was empty, my heart sank. She was out of milk and pop and grapes. I had been too busy to stop by earlier in the week. When I’m torn between the bookends of life, I choose the future, and visit the grandkids.
Mom had run out of bathroom tissue and was using the thin type they supply. I always bring her the extra soft kind.
I walked down to the common dining room and couldn’t find her. All the women seem to look the same: white hair, part of them present, part of them somewhere else. Then I heard her laugh. I pulled up a chair next to her. She grinned and hugged me, poked at her egg salad then said we should go to her room.
She likes routine. So we had the same conversation:
LeBron James: They were going to give him a parade in Cleveland, but he said, I’m from Akron and never lived in Cleveland, so they gave him a parade in Akron.
The Best Day of Her Life: I had an argument with my father and I finally let him have it. I told him off good. It was the best day of my life.
This place is full of old people: I’m the youngest one here. They’re all 90 or 100. Some of them don’t remember their own names.
I nod and always act surprised, like it’s the first time I’ve heard about LeBron or her dad or the old folks around her. She’s 84, the average age of the residents.
There’s no point in changing the subject. For a while, I could lift the needle on the record and move it to another conversation, but the groove is worn so deep, it just keeps skipping. It used to be only part of the record skipped. Now the whole record that is Mom skips.
When I left her with big hugs and wishes for a happy Easter, she walked me to the locked door. She used to sneak and learn the code. Not any more. She forgets to do it. She forgot what freedom felt like.
My heart sank seeing her grin and wave goodbye like a child. When we moved her out of the family home, my brother had a business card made for her with her new address that read: Mother of 11 waiting on heaven.
What is God waiting for? She often asks. I ask on days when I see another piece of her slip away.
I stopped by the chapel. It’s just a few feet from the locked door. The light was on. The little red light that says Jesus Is Home.
It’s means the Eucharist is present in the chapel. It was a real candle, not an electric glow that some churches plug in.
No one was in the chapel, but the light felt like an invitation so I walked up to the altar. A large crucifix rested on it from the Good Friday service. Catholic instinct took over. I bent down and kissed the feet of Jesus.
Then I sat in a chair, no, I pretty much crumbled into it and started to cry.
God take her home, I prayed. God take my mother Home.
She wants to go. And I want her to go before she forgets who we are, forgets who she is.
What a terrible prayer, yet the most honest one in me.
I looked around to make sure no one heard me. It was just me and the deep blue and red chunks of stained glass that make up an entire wall behind the altar. The darkness that holds those bricks of light seemed to understand.
Then suddenly I saw it.
Now, I’ve been in this chapel a dozen times and passed by it more times than I can count. And never had I ever seen it:
There, at the top of the stained glass was a huge stained glass dove. The Holy Spirit in disguise.
Not a small itty bitty bird.
A stained glass dove with the wingspan of an eagle.
It’s been there forever. How could I have never noticed?
My friend Kay says, “You know when you’ve been ‘doved.’”
It’s that moment God’s presence is so clear, it’s like God used a sledgehammer or a billboard to drive home the point, but God is more graceful than that and sends a dove.
I had been doved.
I still felt sad. But I wasn’t alone in my sadness.
Ernest Holmes wrote, “God is not separate from what He is doing. The Divine Life is in everyone and in everything. This is the secret that Jesus discovered…God is right where you are.”
Even if it isn’t where you want to be.