Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Reflections

My oldest daughter wrote this reflective piece and posted it on her facebook page.  With her permission, I am sharing it with you here.

Easter Reflections
by Keicha Christiansen

If I had to pick my favorite holiday it would be Easter.  I delight in the activity surrounding it--candy, coloring eggs,  egg hunts, family gatherings, an excuse to buy a new dress and get dressed up, sightings of new lambs in green pastures, mom's potato salad at Easter dinner, and the fact that it takes place in Spring, my favorite season. This year, I've been reflecting on Easter just one short year ago and all that's changed since.
   Last year, as I frequently do, I spent Easter in Colorado.  My two sisters and I hit the road with our traveling circus of three kids, one large yellow Lab, and assorted luggage and headed to mom's house in Pueblo for the weekend.  That Saturday brought a house full of people, as my three stepsisters, their spouses and all of their children came down for a party.  We had an egg hunt for the kids and a cookout.  A picture taken of me that day with my sisters captured my happiness and contentment.  At that moment I was surrounded by things that make me happy.  The sun was shining, family was all around me, our kids were laughing and playing,  my sisters were by my side.  Life was good.

Keicha, Julie, Amy
April 2010
That evening was spent like most evening's when we gathered at mom's-- in the family room in front of the fireplace with the dogs, Phoenix and Buster at our feet.  Julie and I shared a bedroom that trip, sleeping in twin beds just a few feet apart from each other.  I remember that night, drifting off to sleep in mid-conversation with my sister, loving that  feeling of returning to childhood with my mom down the hall and my sister sleeping across from me barely an arm's length away.  It was that familiar, cozy feeling of being home, which was funny because I didn't grow up in that house, none of us did.  But home is all about the feeling of a place, not the actual location. 

   On Easter morning, the entire household was up and gathered in the living room, in our pajamas drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, the kids eating chocolate eggs from their Easter baskets.  Julie and I eventually roused ourselves and went for a run, 7 miles if I recall.  It would be the last time we ran together, but of course I didn't know it at the time.  We ran through the streets of Pueblo, her old stomping grounds.  As we ran, she talked about her time there during high school.  I asked her a lot of questions about what it felt like to move to a new town as a high school student.  Was she scared?  Did she miss her friends?  How hard was it to make new friends?  She told me things about that period of her life that she'd never shared with me before.  I learned so much about her during that run.  Our route took us past many places that had meaning to her.  She explained all the happy memories she had of running on the cross-country team, and of the really good friends she made at East High.  She talked about her gratitude to our stepdad Jim, and how he made the transition so much easier for her. 
   Later, after Easter dinner we all headed back towards Boulder.  Julie and I ended up driving together, while Amy took all the kids in her car.  Our good chat continued.  We talked about so many things we'd never talked about before.  At Castle Rock, we pulled off for a pit stop and got ice cream cones and fries at McDonalds.  We giggled at our unhealthy snack and the silly satisfaction we gained from giving in to such a ridiculous craving.  When we got home to Julie's apartment, I once again drug my suitcase up three long flights of stairs.  We both lamented the fact that despite being runners, the climb to her apartment was always hard on our quads!  Almost immediately, we changed into warm jackets and took her dog Phoenix to a nearby park to chase a tennis ball.  Looking back on that evening, I'm again struck at how such a seemingly inconsequential moment in life made me so happy.  There I was swinging on a swing set, talking to Julie in between her laps around the park with Phoenix.  The wind was blowing, but we were laughing and happy.  Inside, I felt light-hearted, free from worry.  Being in Colorado with my sisters always had that effect on me. 
   The next day, Julie went off to work and I headed back to Utah.  Our goodbyes were always matter-of-fact.  "Goodbye.  Thanks for coming out. I love you. See you soon."  Of course we would.  We just took it for granted.  At least I did.  Little did I know the next time I'd be back in her apartment, it would be to empty it of her belongings after her funeral.  That time the climb up those stairs didn't hurt just my quads.  It broke my heart. 
   So, this Easter is different for me. Instead of joy, I'm reminded of all that I've lost.  Going home to mom's for Easter is a thought I can't even bear.  I'm afraid of how different everything will be.  Julie is gone, Phoenix will no longer be a part of our road trips, even my mom's dog Buster is gone. He died four days after Julie.  So much has changed.  Having a sister missing from our comfortable group of three leaves an unfathomable void.  Her absence is always there, just under the surface.  Amy and I carry on, but now when we're together things seem just a little off-kilter.  We haven't adjusted to our new dynamic of only two sisters. 
   Eventually I'll go home again.  Just not this year.  We'll all make new happy memories of Easter at mom's.  For now, I try to focus on the memories and the good feelings they bring.  I've realized that happiness in life is made up of so many simple moments.  Times that aren't planned.  Conversations that just happen.  Cravings that are indulged.  Laughter that comes for almost no reason at all.  Those are the moments we carry in our hearts. 

*I wrote about this past year's Easter Weekend on my blog.  If you are interested, you may read about it here:


Joanne said...

I read Your Daughter's words and I have no words to write words good enough. She wrote from her heart, her broken heart and My prayers are with her...and the rest of your family. Blessings, Joanne

Jeanie said...

I feel like Joanne above. There are no words to properly respond to what your daughter has written. She has written with a heart full of love and loss. Thank you for sharing this.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Bless you, Sally and Keicha, for sharing your thoughts and your pain with us. My prayers will be with you all this Easter.

#1Nana said...

Sally, You passed your gift for writing to your daughter! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking piece. What I did notice was that through all the sorrow, what stands out is the love in your family. You have lost a lot, but there is still so much to be grateful for. I hope those memories of last Easter will bring you some comfort this holiday.

Kay said...

I echo Joanne's thoughts. There really aren't words to express my feelings adequately right now. Keicha has truly written an incredibly beautiful essay on her heartache in the loss of her precious sister. I sense in her a strength and desire to bring understanding and peace for all of you. My heart is heavy for your grieving family, but I hope the memory of those good times can bring you some measure of comfort.

Grandmother said...

Keicha shared her story so beautifully and her wisdom that happiness comes in those simple moments together. I appreciate her reaching out to us to give of herself and remind us of what's most important. May her generous heart heal. She's not alone in the immensity of such a loss.
(I just got the shivers when the word verification came up as "three".)

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Sally, Your daughter's story is AWESOME... I sent you a long email....

God Bless ALL of you.

Happy Easter to you and yours.

Deb Shucka said...

Thank you for sharing this amazing story. Keicha's writing is so powerful, the feelings so clear and raw. My heart breaks all over again for the loss you all continue to absorb and learn to live with. I hope Keicha found some comfort in the writing. Sending love and light to you all during this season of death and rebirth.

Bossy Betty said...

Oh this post touched my heart. It was so aching and sweet and such a reminder to us all to savor the small moments in life.

DJan said...

What a wonderful post for me to read on this Easter morning. I have nothing but the utmost respect for your daughter and you for sharing your grief and pain with such heartbreaking immediacy. I know it doesn't seem possible now, but I believe that someday all the best memories of Julie will emerge just like these did, and you will recall them without this wrenching pain. That is what has happened to me over the loss of my son, and I wish the same healing for you.

Sylvia Ney said...

Happy Easter! I'm glad I found your blog. I'm stopping by from the A to Z challenge and I look forward to visiting again.

KathyA said...

A beautiful and moving piece.

Angela Felsted said...

I like Easter too. And how great that we can find joy in the small and simple things.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Wow. It is hard to leave a comment on this. I can't imagine all that you guys have gone through during this past year. I'll praying for your family today, and appreciate the reminder to enjoy each day and to enjoy those we love who are in it with us.

God bless,

Kathy M.

Linda Reeder said...

I wish for you all a time in the near future when you will be able to gather again with joy in remembering and a diminishing of the pain of loss.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Heartbreakingly beautiful others, it is hard to comment, but your way with words is so touching that here I am to say how brightly Julie's star shines through you!
Comfort, ease and peace to you and all your beautiful family!

Jeanie said...

Dear Sally and Keicha,

My heart breaks with this post. I can see through these words how very different this year will be/was for you. All the harder because the joy I heard in Keicha's words as she described Easter a year before was filled with such love and fun. Such happiness. To face the holiday without must have been incredibly challenging.

I admire you both for sharing such an open, beautiful expression of love and caring and loss. It is courageous to write and share such things. And, I hope, healing.

My heart is full of compassion for you all.

KleinsteMotte said...

What a beautiful tribute to you who raised this admirable daughter and whose pain I understand. May all of you heal more as times moves on.