Sunday, April 8, 2012

"How Great Thou Art"

We were a church going family when I was a child.  My mother was deeply involved with singing, playing the organ, and directing the choir and my brothers were altar boys.  I can still remember handing out the programs each Friday for the “Stations of the Cross!”  Our Easter celebrations were a combination of the Easter bunny and colored eggs and the religious celebration of the “Resurrection.”

Each day of Holy Week had some meaning, but the two days that I always remember were “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunday”, and music was big part of both those days.  We had an Irish priest who would put on a bit of a show during mass.  A special inflection when saying certain words…I can always remember in my mind the way get said the word “Golgotha” during the “Stations of the Cross!”  It seemed that my mother always sang “The Old Rugged Cross” on Good Friday.  Even to this day, when I hear that song I think of “Good Friday” and church services. 

Easter 1977- My father, siblings and myself and "Harvey"
That isn’t to say that the whole weekend was just about church.  We would usually decorate our Easter eggs on Saturday and Mom would make sure that all of our Easter outfits were ready to wear.  Usually, my sister and I would have to have our hair put in curlers so we would look our best on Easter morning.  When we got up on Easter morning, we would all run to the kitchen to see what the Easter bunny had left us.  One year, we even got glimpse of the Easter bunny hopping down the street.  It was actually a neighborhood friend – but she certainly made all of the kids in the neighborhood believers that year.  One year, my mother pointed out to me that there was a trail of eggs leading somewhere and that I should see if I could figure out where it led.  I followed them back to my room and found a huge stuffed rabbit sitting in the corner.  Evidently, I didn’t notice it in my haste to run to the kitchen.  Based on Mom’s suggestion, I named him “Harvey” for the tall bunny in the movie of the same name…even though I hadn’t seen it at the time.  After we opened our Easter baskets, we all headed back to our rooms to get ready for church.  We were told to keep our eyes away from the windows…because we weren’t to spoil the Easter bunny’s surprise with where the eggs were hidden.

We were always at church very early.  Mom had to get everything set up and get her choir ready to sing.  Mom always played the organ as people came into the church.  Easter Sunday was always a bid deal and a large mass…but it was always a joyful occasion.  One of my favorite songs that my mother would usually sing as a solo was “How Great Thou Art!”  To this day, it is one of the songs that I associate the most with my mother and very few people can sing it as well as she did.  It wasn’t just the beautiful voice that she had, it was the passion and depth of feeling that she put into her performance.  Mom didn’t become a Catholic until after I was born.  When she did – she devoted herself whole heartedly. 
My mother singing at church.

After church, we went home and did our Easter egg hunt…and checked to make sure that we had collected all the eggs.  No one wanted to find a rotten egg in the heat of the summer.  Then it was time for Mom to begin the process of Easter dinner.  We always had stained deviled eggs and potato salad and usually ham and several other dishes.  My grandparents would come over and we would enjoy our celebration as a family.

We still like to celebrate Easter together as a family.  We lost my mother several years ago as well as her parents.  Usually my father and I join my brother’s family out of town for a wonderful day together.  There are no Easter egg hunts or stained deviled eggs to go along with dinner now…but sometimes there is still candy.  The best gift of all is being together and enjoying each other’s company.  So, I hope that everyone rejoices in whatever way they see fit and gets the opportunity to enjoy family and friends.  On Easter morning, I’ll wake up and in my head I will hear my mother’s glorious voice celebrating her love for God and faith and singing “How Great Thou Art!” and rejoice that I was so lucky to grow up in a family that celebrated their faith and family togetherness!  I wish everyone a joyous and happy Easter!