Good Friday was tough this year; this is the first Easter since my mom died. What’s worse is that last Easter was the first Easter without my brother (who died last January), so mom’s last Easter was really messy in many ways. But we celebrate nonetheless.
Grief and life and death and family and holidays can be so very complicated. I found myself sitting outside of Wegman’s on Friday crying. I am a novice at Easter; mom did Easter! I had a list – I never have lists – mom had lists! Actually I found myself outside of Wegman’s with my anxiety amping up into full blown panic attack mode. Luckily I have learned a few tricks in my life – one being to reach out and ask for help. I called a spiritual friend and began crying. As I was crying, I realized I really don’t cry much anymore, and when the anxiety starts it feels almost like lots of crying is crammed up inside of me and that is what is causing the lump in my throat and the racing heart that makes it difficult to breathe – the anxiety. So the crying was wonderful, and the talk was “soul food!” Complicated.
I talked about buying Easter candy for the first time in years, because my mom always did this. I talked about how my mom drove me crazy with the amount of money she spent on the holidays and the massive amounts of food she made, and how I was the one that was often left throwing it away. Now it is on me to carry this on – going into the store to buy cabbage and kielbasa and channelling my mom’s recipes (because we rarely follow them anyway and never write them down!), and making the Polish food, and carrying on the traditions – some of which really drove me crazy! Feeling inadequate about carrying on the traditions and not helping enough when she was still here. Complicated.
When my mom died – I felt a lot of relief. She was dying in my home as my family cared for her knowing what was coming. She was often confused and scared, and so were we. When she died I was relieved and then went to work and got distracted. On Good Friday, I finally began feeling very sad and missing her, and feeling too exhausted to carry on these traditons. Worst of all is the guilt! Seeing how hard it is to do all of this, and knowing I was not very available to help her. She wasn’t good at asking for help. Complicated.
But guess what? Easter was delicious! Alleluia!! The house smelled like it always does on Easter. I am sad leading up to the holidays – knowing how the absence of loved ones is so very present, but then people – the living people show up – and we laugh! We pick on each other as only family can, no one cares that i cuss (okay – maybe they care – but they love me anyway)! We talk about the dead, and we talk about the living! We connect, we eat, we all stare at the new baby, the new life, we live! Complicated!
This year was good. Not perfect – I used too much rice in the Golumpki – but good. It’s a big deal making the Golumpki. I am a novice, and I knew I used too much rice. Funny – I said it a few times, and everyone said they were good, dismissing my self-criticisms. After the extended family left, I asked my husband – my soul-mate of forever, “How were the Golumpki’s?” He said, “Good.” I said, Good? But?” He said, “There was too much rice.” I was so thrilled. Complicated.
We truly do have to get through Good Friday to appreciate Easter. For me it is mind boggling that I can’t quite get it that the thinking about doing is always, always, always, always worse than the actual doing! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not where I want to be with this lesson, but I’m not where I used to be either. I do have this voice that tells me the thinking about doing is always worse than the doing. I then go through the self lecture, “stay right here in this moment – don’t go into the future. Nothing is wrong right here – right now – what are you really feeling – Okay – you are sad or tired or frustrated. Just be sad or tired or frustrated, but still get into that store and get what is on the list!” Leading up to the holiday is tough, thinking about it, letting my mind control me. However, actually filling the house with smells (that can be bittersweet, but yummy all the same), filling the house with family, filling the house with inside jokes, filling the hosue with connections – – this is the easy part, the yummy part.
The feast is the Easter Sunday part; the part that makes getting through the darkness of Good Friday totally worth it. I have this sense tonight that we all continue to grow, and evolve, and learn, and maybe even relax a bit. It was good, really, really good. I held to some traditions, and I broke others. We assembled a mere community Easter Basket instead of several individual ones costing hundreds of dollars. Although I said several times when cooking, “I don’t know if I am making enough. It is going to be a good crowd this year.” I didn’t overdo. Rather than feeling guilty about being different from my mom in some ways – maybe I can see this as a lesson learned from her – no guilt – no intense feelings – just that – a lesson learned. And let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to teach the next generation lessons. Complicated.