Posts Tagged: Family

Mar 13

Easter Reflections: On Redemption & Renewal

Since my grandparents passed away these last few years, every holiday without them seems as hollow as the cheap chocolate bunnies lining the store shelves.  On this soggy Easter morning, I miss them more than ever.

My mother’s side of the family was never particularly religious, so for us, Easter was more about celebrating the arrival of spring and having an excuse to get together. There were Easter baskets with jelly beans stuck in the fake grass at the bottom, Peeps and Cadbury eggs, and when I was a little kid, my mom colored eggs and hid them out in the yard for us to find.  But the extended family gatherings on her side were never too big on the egg hunt tradition.  More likely, after eating too much dinner and candy, we’d all play cards or check out Dad’s seedlings that he’d surely have started by now in preparation for planting the summer garden.

With my mom and brother, Easter 1980(?)

My biological dad’s side of the family, on the other hand, was very religious indeed.  They are Pentecostal Christians, and Easter was a Very Big Deal.  The small church they attended always had a contest to see which family could bring the most people to service on Easter Sunday, and I remember the church bursting at the seams with people you never saw any other time of year.  Distant relatives and sons and daughters who rarely came, and everybody dressed not just in Sunday best, but all the girls in frilly pastel Easter dresses and patent leather shoes.  Easter was the only time my dad ever went to church with us, that I recall, and we had an enormous clan with 7 kids and a huge extended family of cousins and great-aunts and uncles.

I think some years we won, some years we didn’t, but what I remember best is after church in the parking lot, us kids would run around in our fancy clothes and the men of the church all gave change – shiny quarters and if you were lucky, silver dollars.  Afterwards, my step-mom would drive us to Hook’s drugstore where we’d take our loot and blow it on so much reduced-price Easter candy that we thought we’d already died and gone to heaven.

With my grandma and cousin Rodney at Easter last year.

As an adult with no kids of my own, Easter isn’t quite as exciting anymore.  I’ve long since lost touch with my biological dad’s side of the family, so it’s been many, many years since I attended an Easter Sunday service in a pretty dress.  And my mom’s side of the family sort of fell apart after my grandparents passed away, so we haven’t had any gatherings on her side of the family lately, either.

Still, there’s something about the smell of spring in the air and the fragile green shoots poking out of the ground that make me feel nostalgic and happy that Easter has arrived.

Some friends and I were talking the other day about how, for those of us who are agnostic or atheist, there seem to be few alternatives for the kind of spiritual gatherings or sense of community that church provides for the faithful.  We agreed that humans seem to have a need for certain kinds of rituals and that even though we aren’t religious in the organized religion sense of the word, we still felt a need for traditions and sacred spaces and a sense of belonging to a community.

My mom and sister-in law taking a picture of my niece Julie in her pretty Easter dress.  Nephew Joel possibly picking his nose in the background.  lol

I often make the joke that if I have to be categorized by religious belief, that I’m “apatheistic” – don’t know, don’t care – but that’s not really true.  I may not believe in the Old Testament God I was taught about in Sunday school, but I was raised in a culturally Christian community, and at least my biological dad’s side of the family was very religious,  so I’m sure that my internal moral compass is still largely guided by Judeo-Christian values.  I still believe that “love thy neighbor” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are good rules to live by.

It’s hard sometimes for me to resolve the conflicts I feel about my views on organized religion and the culturally Christian heritage I was raised with, like celebrating Christian holidays or loving the architecture and iconography of churches and cathedrals, but over time I’ve come to believe that it’s ok to celebrate culturally Christian holidays in my own way, and to keep faith in the core meaning of traditions and celebratory rituals that probably preceded Christianity anyway.

So I think for me, Easter is about the coming of spring, about renewal, and a new season of growth.  And it’s about redemption, too, letting go of past mistakes and “sins” and trying to make a fresh start.  Maybe not with an entirely clean slate, the past is the past and our mistakes and history can’t be undone, but we can go forward “reborn”, hopefully wiser and kinder than before, and in anticipation of a new season of possibilities when the warmth of summer returns.

I’m not with my family this year, but I’m thinking of them, and remembering Easters past when we were all together.  Hope you are having a happy Easter too, and feel a little spring in your step today.

Nov 09


I’ve spent the past few days helping my mother settle my grandfather’s estate. He passed away in the spring and we’re just now getting around to dealing with the contents of his house, which is an exhausting and overwhelming ordeal, even though the fresh, sharp pain of his loss has lessened a little. It’s funny, my grandmother is the one with the reputation as a packrat, but it turns out my grandfather was too – he saved everything. Cans, bags, broken appliances (I’m sure he intended to fix them), bits of wires and pipes and tools..  I can’t even describe it.

The summer was a blur and I’m only now beginning to feel sort of back to myself. He had cancer for almost two years and it seems like they passed so quickly, I don’t know where the time went. Life felt hectic, rushing around trying to keep up with work and driving out to help take care of him, and you keep telling yourself to try to enjoy every moment you can even though he was so sick and in pain and grouchy and scared. And then, suddenly, he’s just gone. Poof. The world keeps going even though this giant hole in your heart makes you feel like it should stop. But it doesn’t, and some day down the road, you have to deal with the practical realities of that, like selling his house and cleaning out his things.

I should be grateful, perhaps, that we had all these months in the interim to grieve without having to do this awful task of sorting through his possessions. I might not have been able to do this a few months ago, physically or emotionally. It’s hard work. My body aches all over from all the heavy lifting, and my heart aches from missing him, and it seems quite strange that this house full of stuff is all that’s left of a man that stood so large in my life. But then I think, that’s not quite true, Dad’s voice is the voice of my conscience – he lives on in my head, tsk tsking when I’ve done something wasteful or stupid, proud of me when I’ve done something good or worthwhile. I hear him, still, loud and clear in my mind.

And in doing all this, sorting through his things, it occurs to me that besides my physical possessions – the things in my house, the papers, and furniture, and pots and pans and clothes, and all the items I’ve tucked away here and there – I also have so many digital (possessions). What becomes of them? Dad had few online accounts, mostly related to his investments, and my mother and the estate attorney are taking care of those, but what happens for those of us who live digital lives nearly as full as our physical ones?

It’s been a journey to touch and smell and see the things he saved over 75 years of life. It’s been difficult, sure, but also.. healing in some way, to remember his life through the prism of the artifacts left behind. And you can’t be this close to mortality without thinking of your own end – who will do this for me? Who will sort through my things? I can imagine my sister sorting through my house, but who will sort through my Second Life inventory? My delicious tags? My flickr photos? The contents of my hard drive? Dad left behind scads of lumber and unfinished projects and tools and the products of his work, but so many of the things I do and work on are digital, online, in the cloud, behind a log in screen.

Who will sort through them and will it give them this sense of closure to flip through a digital inventory the way touching Dad’s tools gives me closure? I worry maybe not. For those of you who have children, have you left some instructions for them to find your online things? Should those of us who “live” online be keeping some record for our heirs to find? How exactly would that work? And is it morbid to even think of such things?

I’m really not sure.

Apr 09

In Memoriam & Thanks to Friends

Dad’s Army picture, 1951

Just a brief update to apologize for the several months of silence on the blog. As many of you know, Dad passed away a couple weeks ago and the last few weeks have been spent trying to catch up on all the things that got left by the wayside while we were caring for him at the end. I should be back to blogging regularly again soon.

My sincere thanks to everyone who offered kindness, understanding, and advice throughout the last 18 months. The support of my professional and personal networks helped tremendously in learning about the cancer and how to cope with being a caregiver. I feel lucky indeed to know so many wonderful people, and you helped me be a stronger support for Dad.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Dad smiling in 2005