I had planned on Easter baskets and bunnies.
God had another plan.
Easter Sunday dawned pink, and blue, and yellow. Glorious sunshine streamed through the window to my right. I stretched, trying to relieve cramped muscles, which had been restricted throughout the long, seemingly endless night.
I gazed through foggy, smudged plastic at the bright sunlight, just six feet away. I parted the curtain and gazed out of the window. It was going to be a beautiful Easter Sunday, the kind you pray for: warm and bright with iris and daffodil-scented air.
I imagined my friends and neighbors preparing for the day. Easter hats, bright dresses, and new suits, bought for the special Easter services, would soon adorn Mother and Father, Daughter and Son. Multicolored eggs, hidden throughout sun-lit lawns, nestled beneath bush or tree, in anticipation of the eager searching of little girls in starched dresses, and little boys in blue suits. Scrambling upon newly sprung lawns in the quest of brightly colored treasures, young voices would cry out in triumph, as one jeweled egg after another made its way into colorfully woven, Easter baskets. It was the kind of day I had planned for you, on this, your first Easter.
I turned and looked down upon your sleeping face. Such a beautiful, sweet face with its chubby baby cheeks, downy skin and clear-cut brows. I pressed my lips to your forehead and felt a thrill run through my heart. No fever!
My mind traveled back to the Friday morning before. Good Friday began just before dawn for us. I awoke to hear a strange noise coming from your room: a kind of barking noise, mixed with attempts at crying. I rushed in to find you struggling for breath, your lips outlined in blue. "Mark!" I cried, rousing your father from a deep sleep. He stumbled in confused, but not too muddled to take immediate action. Throwing on a pair of sweats, he wrapped you in a quilt, and rushed you to the deck outside, where a cold pre-dawn breeze might bring you some relief.
The frigid air seemed to help your breathing. Your daddy kept you there, until I could scramble into some clothes. We then rushed you to the emergency room, still wrapped in the quilt, the windows of the van down, so that the cold air would continue to help you breathe.
They told us that it was the croup, implying that you might not survive. I remember grabbing the intern’s tie and pulling his face down to mine: "What do you mean IF he makes it?" I cried. Surely, this was some kind of wicked nightmare and I would awaken soon. You were not going to be taken from us! Not you! Not my son!
Thus began the ordeal. You were taken to the contagious ward and placed within a tent-enclosed crib in which medicated mist was pumped. I crawled in with you and held you. I could feel your little body, burning with fever, trembling in between spasms of breathing. I ached watching you! I was reminded of my last moments with my mother, the grandmother you had never known. I had watched her as she lay dying, fighting for breath, just like you were doing now…watched as her chest heaved with the effort to breath. The memory terrified me! Certainly, a rib cage would break under such effort! Surely, a small child could not survive such suffering! I stroked your forehead and murmured words of comfort throughout your struggle, as I continued to hold you within the circle of my arms. You didn’t cry. I don’t think you had the strength. I cried for you.
Saturday dawned sunny and warm. I remember thinking that if the day before had been this balmy, we may not have made it to Children’s emergency room in time, as the frosty temperatures of the morning before, had eased the swelling in your throat, and allowed you just enough of an airway to breathe.
You slept though most of Saturday. The fight to live won; you lay as you had since we arrived, within my arms, quiescent, gathering strength for the day when you would be released from the hospital.
The room began to brighten with light from the window. I stroked your cheek and brushed your hair from your brow. My beautiful son! How could I survive without you, my baby?
Easter Sunday…your first Easter; I thanked God for returning you to me. Today, there would be no Easter egg hunts, no brimming Easter baskets. Instead, today held life renewed and returned, and it held rejoicing!
Easter Sunday is a day of reflection and joy, representing the end of suffering and the promise of salvation. I lay down beside you, still holding you in my arms as my thoughts turned toward another mother: one, who had watched her son suffer, had stood beneath His cross and bled within her heart as each drop of His blood was shed. How had she endured it? How had she borne it?
I saw her clearly in my mind’s eye, watching her son’s chest heave with the effort to breathe. Knowing that the very position the soldiers had placed Him in would cause asphyxiation. She had stood vigil throughout her child’s struggle for breath, watched as His lips slowly turned blue, as He fought for oxygen. How she must have longed to hold Him, to murmur a mother’s words of comfort. "My baby! My sweet boy!"
I felt her pain as her son was lowered from His cross and finally placed within her arms. Now she could stroke His bloodied head. Now she could kiss His cooling brow and murmur those words she had longed to murmur while He hung above her. I saw her rocking Him, cooing to Him, her voice choking as she perhaps attempted a broken lullaby. I saw her whispering words of love, her heart aching with the torment she had witnessed and with the death of her beautiful boy.
I envisioned her on the second day. Her child lay within His tomb, His personal ordeal now over. She must have felt comfort in this; her son was no longer suffering. He was at peace.
I then imagined her on that first Easter Sunday. I heard the others shouting, "Here is the Lord! Here is the Savior! Here is the Messiah!" But, I heard her voice exclaim with joy: "Here is my baby! Here is my child! Here is my heart!"
What gratitude she must have felt! At that moment in time, I could not imagine that she was thinking of the salvation of mankind. I could only visualize a mother, who had just the night before, cried out in anguish to the heavens above, "I want my son back!" weeping now in gratitude and relief at her child’s return.
I turned onto my side and gave you a gentle hug. My heart filled with gratitude that I had not lost you, that you were again healthy and alive, that you were here, within my arms, my sweet son.
Kissing your silken cheek I sent up a prayer of thanksgiving: "Thank you for giving me my son back," I prayed, "and tell your mother for me, please – I’m glad she has her son back too." I closed my eyes and at last slept.