I've never been able to muster much enthusiasm for celebrating Easter. I mean, when I was really little I remember being pretty stoked to have a bunch of candy show up on a random morning. And dying eggs was always fun. But then I was rather abruptly introduced to the crucifixion story at Sunday school, in kind of a look at how horribly people treated Jesus way, with barely a mention of the Resurrection or Everlasting Life and definitely no explanation of why a good man being nailed to a wooden cross and left in the desert sun to die a slow, horrific, painful death should result in us wearing frilly dresses and squealing over brightly colored plastic eggs every spring. (Also left out of the discussion: why a bunny should be in charge of distributing said plastic eggs.)
I think, though I admit my memory is not crystal clear, that the holiday just felt disturbingly confusing after that. Grotesque, really, with its veneer of sugary pastel cuteness just barely hiding a gory torture scene (a torture scene various authorities would have you believe had nothing to do with God, or was regretfully allowed by God, or was happily accepted by God, or was even vindictively required by God). And it's not like the good parts of Easter celebrations can hold a candle to Christmas, so why not just forget the whole thing?
As time has passed and I've learned more about life, about injustice and unfairness and cruelty and pain and suffering and love, I've cautiously sidled up to the Easter story along the way. But it's still an incredibly complex and confusing business. I sometimes wish all this time and searching through the grasses and weeds of history, biology, faith, and my soul had revealed to me a gorgeous solid golden egg of Meaning that I could now point out to the angst-ridden Mr. Pants. I could say, See? See that gleaming ray of holy light winking at us through the grasses? That says, Death is not the End.
But my sense of Meaning within the Easter story is more like a swarm of uneasily co-existing snitches (link for people who still haven't read Harry Potter). My anthropological understanding of the story as an explanation to an ancient people of why we don't have to sacrifice animals to keep God happy anymore (the story of Abraham having already - whew! - explained why we don't have to sacrifice *people* anymore)* buzzes past my ethical understanding of the story as the ultimate illustration of pacifism and universal love, the pair of which bowl through a humming cloud of isolated poetic/spiritual/metaphysical ideas about death and time, which are constantly setting each other askew, and a few flitting golden balls of mildly to grossly conflicting ways to interpret the life of Jesus wend their way around the whole glittery mess, stirring up eddies of their own.
*I'm sure I learned both those bits somewhere along the way, but now that I see them juxtaposed like that, it sounds a little weird. Ah, well.
Then here is Mr. Pants, sitting in my lap for the bedtime story of his choice, When I Get Bigger, saying again, "I don't want to die," and I tell him, That's OK, nobody wants to die, it's just scary because we don't know what it's like, and read a page of the book, but it's nearly Easter so I start to feel like shouldn't I at least mention the whole POINT of this major holiday, a holiday which he is super excited about because -CANDY! - but aren't we supposed to be super excited about it because -GOD LOVES US! - and -SUFFERING HAS A PURPOSE!- and -DEATH HAS LOST ITS STING!- yeah?
So I stop reading and say something about how it's scary to think about dying, but it's just our body that dies, the part that's really us is called our soul and our soul doesn't die, that's what we celebrate at Easter, because Easter is when Jesus showed us that our souls don't die. And he says, "Souls?" and seems a bit cheered up and says, "Yeah, boys don't die. And you won't die. You're not going to die."
And I decide to just go with a subtle restatement, "Not anytime soon, that's right," and read another page of When I Get Bigger.
But then I stop again, thinking maybe an example would be good, and say something about how even though Abuelo is dead, I still feel like he's around, like he still loves us, because his soul is still around, and Mr. Pants says skeptically, "But I can't see a soul." Which I admit is true. "Where is it?" he wants to know. "It's kind of everywhere," I say, "It doesn't really have a place," and then I decide to stop digging myself into invisible holes and just finish the story.
Now, this morning, I'm in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher and up the stairs comes Mr. Pants, another book held triumphantly over his head as he looks at me, shining with the light of epiphany, and says, "Books don't have souls!"
"That's right, books don't have souls." (A glinting thought which would like to qualify that answer whizzes past, but I let it go.)
"Yeah," he says, pleased to be figuring it all out, "They're just for reading."