Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter's Death Springs Renewal

My dad is Lutheran, my mom is Jewish. My childhood exposed me to traditions from both denominations, but I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as religious.

Spiritual, yes.

Religious, no.

In fact, if there is a god, I’m still pretty pissed off at him.

Today, though, I can’t help but contemplate the religious meaning in both Easter and Passover.

Seven years ago, on Easter Sunday, my husband, Erik, and I admired our 17-month-old daughter, Tatiana, as she carefully grasped purple and pink polka-dotted eggs in the grass.

“Do you think about how lucky we are,” I said to Erik.

He rubbed my ripe, pregnant belly. “Yeah, I think about it at least five times a day.”

Erik was a rising-star manager for Lucas Digital and I had photographed over two-thousand Northern California families through my children’s photography business. We were both 29, both excited to be only two months away from the birth of our second daughter, Keira.

Fortunately, our marriage had reached the point in which laughter, or the playful flick of a middle finger, could end most conflicts.

That Easter Sunday, right after our casual family dinner, Erik kissed all over Tatiana's round, olive cheeks. "Who's my itty bitty ditty bug?"

She kicked her legs, in her lime-green high-chair, squealing with delight, “Da-Da!”

And then the delight vanished. Laughter silenced itself, as we watched Erik slide down the kitchen counter. 

Are you kidding me?

He lay motionless on the cold, white-tiled kitchen floor.

“Erik, get up.”

Then I noticed the blood. A line of blood trickling down his mouth.

This can’t be happening.

“Don’t worry, Tatiana. Da-da’s going to be okay.”

But he wasn’t okay.

No, Erik did not rise like the stories of Jesus. Nor did Erik’s blood mark him to be passed over.

Erik was dead.

Just like that.

So, here it is, seven years later, and this scene has hammered my mind like an incessant woodpecker. Again and again, I have let grief’s beak rip open my forehead, in order to make sense of things.

But this Easter morning is different.

This Easter, Tatiana and Keira, now 8 and 6, have an older brother and a new baby brother. This year, we are all blessed by Evan, my new husband, who adopted the girls two years ago.

And this year, Easter just so happens to be April 4th, the day before Evan's April 5th birthday. 

What does this mean?

I used to think that Erik’s death on Easter Sunday simply packed my anger with more ammunition, but now I have deeper understanding.

Like these two dates, death and life sleep side by side.

Because of my sadness, my joy is now amplified. Because I have witnessed death, I know to celebrate life.

Now, as Evan and I help our four children decorate their Easter eggs, I feel the renewal in Spring.


  1. Beautiful Hyla, I am glad that you can enjoy life once more, and feel the laughter in your life :) I am 5 years into my journey and like yourself have found a second chance at my happiness. Wade was my savior in a time that happiness seemed as unlikely as a fairytale. Now we are one happy united family, he adopted my daughter as well on Valentines day 3 years ago and we have a 2 year old son together that is my reason for believing again. I wish you happiness and joy.


  2. Beautiful post. It gives me a glimpse into a future that could again hold happiness for my sons and I. We are a year into our journey. It is comforting to know that others have survived and thrived after the death of a husband and father. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Great post, Hyla! I'm so happy that you've come full circle and you are able to be happy, even joyful, despite the sadness you've endured. I also understand feeling pissed off at God. I too was mad for a long time after my Dad's sudden and unexpected death. I have learned through all of it that He really does love us, though, and He does not "do that" to us...just as you would not inflict that sort of pain on your own chlid...neither does He. There was a time however, that I blamed Him. I have come to know God in a way that I may never have before, and He really is amazing and He is changing my life in ways I could not have imagined! When I look back over the last 7 years, I can see very clearly the times that God was there for me and guided me along through this crazy and many times complicated life....even when I was angry, He was still there quietly helping me along this journey. I'm so glad He never gave up on me....and He won't give up on you either! :o)

    I love you, and I know that Easter is a very difficult day for today, I send love your way, and know that I'm thinking about you, and I hope your day goes well and that you truly enjoy all the blessings that have been added to your life. They are true gifts from God! ...and He loves you (even when we don't think we love Him or even know if He's there!) Take it from me....I've been there.
    XOXO Michelle

  4. Beautiful. Perfect. Inspiring. Relevating (if that is such a word.)

  5. Wonderful Hyla! I love how you write and express it in words.."death and life sleep side by side", wow...very accurate. Any of us could be off the planet before sunset today;some of us wouldn't mind that at all either.But when it happens like it happened to Erik and you and the children, at such a young age, it is Shocking...
    ...Thank you for sharing your life, your pain, your heart, your tears..
    Blessings Always to you and your precious family!!

  6. Thank you to all of you for supporting me along this journey!!!

  7. Hyla,
    I stumbled across your blog via Facebook. I am also a remarried young widow. My late husband passed away in 2006 (he was 46 and I was 42) and I remarried (a widower) in late 2007. I so relate to what you write about. Ferdinand and I have 5 kids combined. I have three. Two boys 25 and 21 and a daughter 17 and I adopted his two a son 12 and a daughter 7 when they were 10 and 5! At almost 47, I'd like to hope that we don't have anymore, but we're not preventing an addition if it happens! LOL!

    Thank you for so beautifully expressing in words, so many of my emotions and feelings. I am definately your newest fan and can't wait to read your posts daily!


  8. Hyla,
    I now have two wonderful twin girls, and looked you up to see if you still did photography. I have sat here reading your story for the last hour. Such horrible and wonderful things have happened since I last saw you 13 years ago. Though it's late, I am both so sorry, but inspired by your strength. If the writing in your blog is an indication, you should have a publishing deal asap!
    Jon Sloat- Your former picture framer


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