It is a cruel paradox worth noting in our yearly calendar.
Spring is the season of rebirth, when the flowers and trees bloom, the sunshine warms us again (eventually) and the promise of Easter replaces the cold winter void. Away go the coats and gloves, out come swimsuits and grills, Easter bonnets and baskets for a spring and summer of fun amid nature’s beauty.
And yet, over the years, this time of year has brought more than its share of pain and heartache as well. April sadly marks the anniversary of some of mankind’s most horrible tragedies, most of them in recent years the direct result of man’s ongoing inhumanity to his fellow man.
In centuries past, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the San Francisco earthquake and the sinking of the Titanic were April’s seminal events. Then in the last two decades, the shock and awe of tragedies whizzed by with regularity: the Waco, Texas, siege of the Branch Davidian complex in 1993 (76 dead); the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995 (160 dead); the school shootings in Columbine, Colo., in 1999 (12 dead); and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 (32 dead), one psychotic terrorist piggybacking on the work of the others in a cruel parade of horror.
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured dozens. Monday’s Patriot Day race will gather the survivors and others who will bravely run the course again in defiance of the deadly violence that marred last year’s celebration.
Yet that was an instance when we saw mankind at its worst, then at its best in response. A craven coward sets off a pressure-cooker bomb full of nails to make a point —what was his point, anyway? Or was there one? —and kills and maims hundreds of runners and spectators.
In response, heroes rush in to help the injured, saving lives in the process. A strong city unites, a nation draws together behind it, and many of those wounded physically and emotionally recover to run again.
Once again, the hopeless and the hopeful cancel each other out, that sense of balance giving us some glimmer of a world moving forward even after we take a step back.
At times, we become numb to this as we anticipate the next frightful incident at any moment. When it comes, we flip on the cable news channels to assess the impact and then go about our daily lives, knowing there’s another week of headlines and news reports to follow.
Yet it’s still often hard to absorb. Even as the Easter week prayers and rituals went on, those news channels told us of scores likely dead in a ferry boat sinking in South Korea and the continued futile search for a plane lost at sea with hundreds aboard. There always seems to be pain and sadness waiting around the corner, even during times of joy.
Too many Easters have seen members of America’s armed forces dispatched to battlegrounds afar while their children searched for brightly colored eggs at home. But here again, we can see the glass as half full. A dozen years of war in the Middle East are winding down, with U.S. troops scheduled to leave Afghanistan by year’s end.
In March, there were no U.S. casualties in that conflict, only the third month that has occurred during the nation’s longest war, which has claimed more than 2,300 lives.
And every heart-lifting scene we see of a soldier returning home to reunite with his or her joyful family members is another reminder that, eventually, the shooting stops for a while and life goes on.
Death, destruction, pain ... and then hope. Always hope.
That remains the message of Easter. Though the holiest of Christian celebrations, you don’t have to be a member of its faith to appreciate the promise of renewal this season represents. Beyond personal religious beliefs lies the hope we can be reborn from the darkest of events. After hatred and cruelty cast their shadows, the clouds part to make room for forgiveness and resurrection.
In a world full of uncertainty, violence and suffering, we must cling to that hope to meet another day. The Easter miracle reminds us that the sun will come out and drive away darkness and despair. We lose patience waiting for it, but it will come.
We wish all a happy Easter and life’s blessings for today and all the Sundays to come.