Brooke’s generosity Blog
April 12, 2020

Some days you just remember.

The people who were there the first Easter morning could never forget. The feelings, the drama, the trauma of experiencing life, when they expected death; they found life! This remained with them the rest of their lives.

We run out of words and so we celebrate with music and “Hallelujahs” and declarations that “Christ is Risen!” This year, as we worship from home, we acknowledge our faith in an unfamiliar way. Yet it is the same faith and the same community that gathers.

At this time of year, I think of Aprils past. In April of 1980 my Mom received the diagnosis of breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and recovered in her usual active way to a fulfilling life with my father and two of my brothers and my sister still at home. My youngest brother was in his last year of high school and my sister was at the University of Ottawa.

In April of 1983 my mother learned that the cancer had moved to her bones. This was difficult but she embraced life with a new sense of the precious nature of each moment. Her four grandchildren became the joy of her life. She learned to deal with radiation, hormone treatments, and chemotherapy.

In April of 1987 we learned she had liver cancer. On the day after Easter, Monday, April 5, 1988, she was admitted to hospital to see if there was any way to comfortably prolong her life with additional treatments. There was not.

On Friday April 8th she came home to die. My mom was the centre of our family life. She was also known to possess a capacity for determination. (We never called it stubborn, we wouldn’t dare, but we thought it.)

When my mom came home to die, she refused to go upstairs to her bedroom. She flung out her arms and said: “No! If I go up there you will forget me. Put me there!” She pointed to the comfortable couch in the living room. She wanted to be in the centre of the house, surrounded by her family. And there she stayed. At the centre of the life of her family.

Linda and I lived in Toronto with toddler Laura and the expectation in July of baby Emily. After worship on Sunday, April 11, 1988, we drove to Ottawa to be there.

This was sacred and holy time with family. The Stanley Cup playoffs were on. Montreal was playing the Hartford Whalers in the first round. The television was brought into the living room from the family room. Why? Because we all wanted to be there with mom.

There was cheering and helpful hints given to the referees. There was a background commentary as the large room was filled with people. Watching hockey. But really, much more than that. Mom was sedated but had some bright and precious moments. She smiled a lot. Somehow, someway, she knew we were there. She could feel the love and so could we.

I had the all-night shift. I volunteered. The hospice outreach workers gave complete support to my sister Peggy, the nurse, and several friends and relatives nearby were also nurses. Mom was tenderly and graciously cared for. During my nights alone with her, I took time to be thankful. Having worshipped through Holy Week and Easter, the resurrection was much on my mind.

My overall feeling was one of deep peace and gratitude. We had eight wonderful years since my mother’s first diagnosis of cancer at the age of 52. We shared many wonderful memories. Mom had declared her preference to die at home and thanks to extraordinary medical care this was done.

I reflected on Jesus’ resurrection. I did not have a blinding insight of power or of certainty. But I was graced with God’s presence. When our first child Laura was baptised, the baptism was performed by Dr. H. Douglas Stewart. He was our minister in Ottawa when I was between 7 and 19. His sermon was titled “Prevenient Grace.”

I had to look up the word ‘prevenient.’ It has rich meaning in the antiquity of the church. It means “divine grace that precedes human decision.” In other words, God starts showing love before we are aware of what love is.

In that sense, every baptism of a young child is a declaration of “Prevenient Grace.” God loves us first. Always.

I have no sudden revelation of the ‘how’ of resurrection. I do have a sense of the mystery and the hope of resurrection.

Mom died at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday April 13, 1988. She was 60 years old. The passing was peaceful. The funeral directors were dignified and kind. The funeral was splendid.

Why do I share this on Easter morning? Because I believe that all Easters are personal. Each one of us will face our mortality and, with more difficulty, the mortality of loved ones. The resurrection of Jesus is a personal promise to we who follow.

Our faith matters. Easter matters. Resurrection matters.

May you be comforted and find peace, resurrection peace, this Easter morning. Hallelujah!