On the day the world rang out with alleluias, I was hollow and empty, as if I couldn’t get all the way out of the tomb. Easter was cold and rainy, in more ways than one. Youngest son didn’t appear until after four PM. My daughter was sick. Middle was MIA altogether. Eldest showed up but even he was here and gone in fifteen minutes. I’d hoped my family would gather for dinner, even with all the backbiting and sarcasm. But there was no dinner, and I wasn’t much of a light.
After an uplifting church service, I should’ve lit up the whole area with my hope. Instead, I moped around. I made obligatory calls to my elderly parents and sent emojis to my niece. But for some reason, my three sons’ Substance Use Disorder and its fallout got the upper hand. How could I be so frozen on the Day of Resurrection?
My expectations simply didn’t match reality.
I know, I know. I counsel other moms whose loved ones battle substance use disorder: never give up. Don’t lose hope. But sometimes the space between what I hope for and what happens is light years across.
I wanted my three grown sons to embrace me with hugs and smiles and ask, “Something smells good—what’s for dinner?” I yearned for my three grandchildren to track muddy footprints through the living room after they found all the hidden Easter eggs outside. In my mind’s eye, my dear husband could have given me flowers. And I’d wipe my hands on my apron and rummage through cupboards to find a suitable vase.
That’s how the screenplay went in my foolish thoughts. And that’s how I tricked myself into not being present on the holiest day of my faith year. By dwelling on dreams from some old sitcom, I was unable to live in the moment.
Since I’ve been dealing with loved ones’ addictions for decades, I already knew high expectations would lead to disappointment. When you refuse to acknowledge the way things actually are and entertain fantasies, the curtain always comes down hard. Eventually, the sun sets without a hint of met expectations anywhere.
I lit a lilac-scented candle and went through the motions— my husband said the ham was salty, and nobody touched the brussels sprouts. After dinner, my husband and I gamely ate angel food cake with sliced strawberries. The cat got a spurt of whipped cream and was the most thankful of all.
Evening found me holding a candle that had gone out, wax hard and congealed, cold and dark. Disappointment was a black abyss in places that should’ve been shining. Some would say I was having a pity party. No, it was more than self-pity. For me it was pure grief. Jesus arisen—for what, exactly? That’s what my grief wanted to know.
My light didn’t overcome much darkness.
Find something to celebrate–even if it’s only a kitty gobbling up whipped cream.
I reviewed my tendencies to want what I can’t have. To grumble when my prayers go unanswered, when it’s Easter, darn it, and things don’t turn out the way they were supposed to. I huddled in a blanket but couldn’t get warm.
Then I received a call from another hurting mom. She seemed on the edge, with her hope about to crash into a bottomless sea. Desperation and sobs punctuated her words.
At first, I didn’t want my bad day interrupted by someone else’s bad news. Why couldn’t I just grieve, alone? Yet I knew this mom’s story—it was mine too. I couldn’t ignore her grief any more than my own.
I comforted her, telling her to keep expectations low, to appreciate every tiny, beautiful thing. To fully immerse herself in the moment. To acknowledge her pain, her grief, but to find some small thing to celebrate, to behold with awe, to be thankful for. Like a kitty gratefully gobbling up whipped cream.
No amount of cheering or pie-in-the-sky promises were going to change reality. We were both laid out flat by our expectations, by the magical thinking that comes with our reality, enticing us away from fully leaning into what is. As long as we held our breath waiting for some Easter miracle, we were bound to have the light choked out of us. We vowed to walk toward the present.
And as we stepped back into the now, suddenly I was once again stronger, more hopeful. I resurrected the moment before me, thankful for a light that darkness can never overcome. I relit the lovely lilac candle and breathed in the scent of peace.