The Easter Vigil is a dramatic and joyous opening celebration of the Resurrection on the Eve of Easter. It’s truly the highlight of the liturgical year. Although it’s long, we brought our children to this liturgy when they were quite young because the traditions are rich with symbolism and the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ is loud and clear. We’ve rarely missed one in many years.
But this year, Johanna was not up for the Easter Vigil. Her friends visited with us earlier on Holy Saturday. We colored eggs and had a rousing egg hunt with our dogs. Plastic eggs filled with dog kibble makes for a most exciting egg hunt!
At the end of the day, Jo needed to rest and I needed to rest with her. So instead of dressing up and attending a two-hour Easter Vigil, I sat beside her eating gluten free pizza while watching “Iron Man 3.” Jo loves movies about superheroes and villains.
Johanna’s fascination with Marvel’s Iron Man and Avengers series began before I knew they existed. She’d watched some of them with her older siblings. But Johanna piqued my interest in the movies when she mentioned Iron Man one day while we were in NYU hospital.
Jo was recovering from brain surgery. The shunts in her brain were replaced and a catheter that had previously drained fluid from her brain to her stomach was now moved to drain the fluid into her heart. Johanna also has a mediport, which was accessed for this surgery.
With all these apparatuses draining into her heart, my daughter looked up at me, her little hand covering her heart and said, “Wow, Mom, now I really feel like Iron Man!” I vaguely recalled one of the movies but none of the details as I asked, “Who is Iron Man?”
Johanna explained to me the significance of Iron Man as the super-hero with apparatus in his heart that not only helped him survive but gave him super powers.
Once I watched the first movie, I understood and I was hooked. And thus began Johanna’s and my fascination with Marvel’s Avenger series. Jo feels like Iron Man because of the parts in her heart. But I tell my daughter she is my hero because she possesses super-hero strength that is not of this world.
So we spent the vigil of Easter cuddled up on the couch resting, watching “Iron Man 3.” I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the resurrection of Christ, maybe because I felt a little guilty and had to find meaning in this non-religious experience. But truly there was a battle of good and evil and even a scene where Iron Man and his house collapse and descend into the sea. Seemingly dead, this hero rises from his watery grave to wage war on evil and win the victory on Christmas day.
When I tucked Jo into bed and blessed her head with the sign of the cross, I thanked her for sharing her super-hero life with me.
For all the quiet of Holy Saturday, Easter morning was glorious. The sun was out and the church was packed with families standing along the sides and out the open doors. The Shrine is home to pilgrims from many cultures and races. And we all come together for these jubilant celebrations. It was a beautiful Mass of Resurrection.
Spending Holy Week at Johanna’s pace was a beautiful meditation on the mercy of God. She was more rested and ready to celebrate Easter with a little energy and focus.
I clicked into high gear as I rushed around the kitchen preparing food to bring with us to share Easter dinner with our son and our friends at their home. I seated Jo safely in a chair as I rushed around in pretty pink heels to get ready, seemingly forgetting the slow pace of Holy Week to enter into the excitement of Easter.
My Easter rush came to a crashing halt when I tripped over my own feet and my body slammed against the hard tile floor. After my husband rescued me with ice and lovingly supported me when I was ready to stand, I was determined not to wreck our Easter plans.
We used my daughter’s wheelchair to get me out the door and into our friends’ house. The lively conversations, the fellowship, food, and wine made for a lovely day, despite the fact that I was confined to a chair with my swollen knee elevated and iced.
Days after the fall (pun intended), I learned that my high heeled crash caused a fracture to my tibia, just below the knee.
It seems I need a deeper dose of mercy and a keen awareness of others’ struggles to round out my Holy Week journey. Catholics extend our celebration of Easter for 50 days so that we really get the full meaning of Christ’s resurrection.
For me, it feels more like the 40 days of Lent, all over again.
I’m learning to slow down and realizing how hard it is to walk when one leg can’t hold you. Every step is deliberate and I tire easily.
As I sit icing my knee, I watch my super-hero daughter and take notes for this three to four-month lesson in mercy. Jo’s steps are slow and unbalanced because of her neurological issues, twisted spine, and a pronated left foot. I now have a better understanding how hard it is to climb the stairs and how far down the toilet seat is when your legs don’t work and your body is out of balance.
Life slows down when you have to take it at a slower pace.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a beautiful Easter feast celebrating the mercy of God. When we think of Divine Mercy we think of the end result – forgiving for the unforgivable, redemption for the unredeemable. This is the eternal goal of mercy.
But in order to get there, to be “merciful as our heavenly Father” we need to be willing to see life through another’s eyes, walk a mile in their shoes (or on their crutches) and slow down to appreciate another’s perspective.
Mercy is in the eyes of the beholder when we slow down long enough to see.