Photo courtesy of Rita Lamar
Growing up in the South, Easter was an avalanche of smells — bacon and onions sautéing, melting chocolate bunnies, the sweet smelling newness from plants growing, flowers blooming, fresh pine-straw-lined azalea beds, and the crispness of early morning, dew-soaked air.
I can still hear the sounds of church organs in full vibrato fever, choirs in rehearsed harmonic joys, extended families and the squeals of old aunts commenting about your growth.
I remember ladies complementing their outfits and discussing their clothes selections for the children. I remember the men considering the weather, hunting season, latest jokes, and nervous exchanges meant to fill time until the blessed moment when everyone is allowed to eat. I remember we boys running around in the yard with one side of a dress shirt hanging out and this year’s clip on tie flapping from the trouser pocket.
Ah! the smells and sounds of everyone getting together — just so long as nobody brought up politics or, depending upon the year, anything about the Clemson, Carolina, or Georgia football misery from the previous season.
Yet, all that was about the day, Easter. The event. The gathering. The religious and cultural celebration.
One of the memories I cherish most happened the Friday before. Pronounced “gooo-uuuhd” Friday by those well meaning and genteel ladies who would drive you out the kitchen for trying to swipe a deviled egg whilst they focused on pouring up the sweet tea.
Near the end of elementary school, my folks brought us up to my grandparent’s house, as they often did. There was always the normal flourish of dogs barking with hugs and kisses all around. When that died down, the women retired to the kitchen speaking of preparations, worrying whether the gargantuan amount of food would be enough, and of course, joking about the conspicuous dish that was added this year.
It was in those times that my Grandpa would walk outside to the garden and survey the work to be performed, giving me a chance to tag along.
The garden was truly his place, where he went to think, the reward for a man in his sunset years. He always planted his crops on Good Friday, and I remember a conversation with him that went something like this:
Me: Why are you planting this stuff now? I mean, you could plant this next week.
Grandpa: Son, this ain’t just any Friday
Me: What do you mean?
Grandpa: I’ve prepared this soil, tilled it, and cleaned the weeds out of it. We are today putting seed in there, watering it, and covering it over. Next week I’ll see new sprouts coming up out of there.
Me: Yeah, but why today?
Grandpa: Son…. (he always called me son, as he did my brothers and cousins. That made me feel big, important and the object of his concern)… Son, I do it today to remember what Jesus did for you and me. Jesus was preparing his whole life to die. He died for my sins and yours. He was placed in the tomb, just like these seed in the ground here. If that had been all, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But, a few days later he came out of that grave alive, just like he said he would, and just like my beans will.
Me: Yeah… I heard that before Grandpa, but how do you really know?
Grandpa: Because son, that is called faith. Some people only believe in what they can see for themselves. They think that they have to prove everything to themselves.
“But God does not show off just in sunsets. He appears in quiet whispers and coincidences that bring new beginnings that change the arc of your life, awakenings so powerful you mark time by them.” ~ Steve Pemberton
Me: But, don’t you want proof?
Grandpa: Son, In my life I’ve been able to see many exciting things – the splitting of atoms and even new elements discovered. Yet, I know there are true things that a man just can’t prove because they are beyond him. Every time someone makes a discovery, we just discover how much is still beyond us. I believe in Jesus because I have read the scriptures, prayed to him, and felt God’s presence in my life – in that small coincidental stuff that I can’t explain except by belief. I’ve seen this not just with me but those I know.
Me: I still want proof.
Grandpa: I know son. (he smiled) If you will listen for God to tell you things through his scriptures, when you are quiet and praying, and through life experiences, you’ll know all that you need to know to answer your questions. God will prove himself to you if you listen to him. Just wait and see.
We had lots conversations like that. I loved these talks because he didn’t beat me over the head with dogma. He just told me why he believed.
Every now and then something someone says, a sound, a smell, a conversation will bring me back to a moment in that garden. This quote, to me, helps describes those moments.
What about you? What experiences have changed the arc of your life?