It’ll be Easter tomorrow.
As a child, Good Friday and Easter Sunday were compulsory church days for me. Even now, as a half-pagan semi-atheist (I am multitudes), I sometimes feel a slight desire to attend church services during Easter.
Easter, with its representation of new beginnings and coming back to life, feels even more important this year considering what we’re going through. The world after COVID-19 will not be the same.
When we emerge from our homes after this lockdown is over, who will we have become and what will the world look like?
In his newsletter Timeless & Timely, Scott Monty writes about renewal and how the holiest occasions in the Jewish and Christian religions occur in Spring. The two occasions — Passover and Easter — both act as reminders of how “the future can be better than the present”.
“Spring is a time of growth and renewal. When the dormant trees and flowers come to life and remind us that nature is once again taking its course,” writes Monty.
No matter how bleak or barren Winter seems to be, the world comes to life in Spring. Monty writes: “Life goes on, even after the most unimaginable of circumstances.”
It’s a heartening reminder in these times.
When heartache feels like the world’s end
As I write this, my 11-year-old dog is in the hospital. My family adopted Jacob after my aunt’s dog had puppies. I’ve known him all his life and after over a decade, I don’t know what life is supposed to look like if he isn’t around.
Loving Jacob has taught me so much about loving myself. There have been times when I was curled up crying on the floor and this big-hearted salt and pepper Schnauzer would curl up beside me, providing comfort in his own little way. Looking at myself through his eyes makes me seem like a better person.
In the midst of being cooped up at home during this pandemic — not being able to see friends, being apart from family members — and having lost clients who can no longer afford to pay for my services, this has been the biggest blow yet.
And so, as I do in times of emotional distress, I turn to reading and writing as a source of comfort.
The scholar called Jacob, the goddess called Ēostre
My dog, Jacob is named after Jacob Grimm, of Grimm’s Fairy Tales fame.
In Grimm’s writings in Deutsche Mythologie, he mentions a goddess called Ostara and suggests that she may be where the celebration of Easter began.
He was exploring Bede’s writing on Ēostre, which said that feasts were once held in her honour but were eventually replaced by the Christian Paschal month.
With only one person attesting to this, her existence in history is still a matter of controversy but after enough people have written about her, she’s certainly found her place in Germanic mythology.
That belief in her existence, because enough people have heard her name, because she has taken form in the minds of people, she continues to exist in a way.
The power of memory
The idea that memory and belief fortifies existence has been explored numerous times in fiction. From Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Jennifer Fallon’s The Demon Child trilogy to Pixar’s Coco.
In American Gods, old gods struggle for their existence amidst new gods like Technology and Media. In Coco, a dead man fights to be remembered by his family on Día de Muertos before his spirit fades away.
Irvin Yalom said, “Someday soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That’s when I will be truly dead — when I exist in no one’s memory.”
Perhaps it’s not just actual resurrection that can bring someone back to life. Maybe it’s remembrance as well.
Keeping loved ones alive
After my father died, all those years ago, my mother kept going. She didn’t just keep going, she made sure she thrived. And by extension, my brothers and I thrived.
She played the music he wrote. She told us stories. She read us his letters. Although we were rather young when my father died, she kept him alive in our minds.
Years later, even my husband talks about my father as if they’d met. His presence permeates our home, a welcome ghost even in times when it feels painful to remember him.
His death has also been a reminder that loved ones may leave. That they may be taken away earlier than you expect.
His death is a reminder to love the ones left behind.
Just gotta ride that cycle
The Holy Week is typically a time for contemplation. It’s a reminder that life moves in cycles. Both triumph and sorrow do not last forever.
This year, I am reminded to seize beautiful moments, whenever they come, and that they will come even in the midst of crises.
I am reminded that when going through trials, the only thing we can do is take it a step at a time and in my mom’s words “face it when it comes”.
I am reminded that even if the bad times feel like they will last forever, they will not. There are better days ahead.
Even if things get worse, and perhaps they will, dawn brings a new day. And that’s something to look forward to.