By Tim Hayes
That Easter morning, she had never looked so lovely.
As my wife and I headed out the door to Easter Mass – the last one at our parish that Sunday in the late 1980s – we both looked springtime fresh and dapper. I wore my favorite suit and tie, and she had on a dress that brought out the color in her beautiful green eyes. We had been out late the night before, having seen a movie at the local theater, so we indulged a bit and slept in.
We drove to the church and found every parking space filled, which struck me as a bit odd. We had arrived plenty early, and even on Easter Sunday, the lot should not have been packed like it was. We found street parking and started walking to the church doors, just as an overflow crowd inside began spilling out. What was going on here?
I saw an usher in the back of church and asked whether the Mass schedule had changed for the special day, and he said no. This was the final Mass of the day, and it was just finished. Then he asked a question that landed on us like a grand piano.
“You remembered to change the clocks last night, didn’t you?”
And of course, we hadn’t. Coming home so late from the movie, we completely forgot to “spring ahead,” which meant we were moving 60 minutes out of step with the rest of society.
The question became what to do now? We hated to not go to Mass on Easter Sunday, of all days, so I started calling around to other area parishes. No luck. They had already held their services for the day. I called neighboring diocese offices. No, no, no. Until our last hope appeared – an evening Mass at the main cathedral in Downtown Philadelphia, about two hours away. Such began our Easter Odyssey, which has since become family legend.
Living on a shoestring budget, we had Easter “dinner” at Perkins Pancakes before heading south to Philly – a town that I consistently had trouble navigating. But off we went anyway and, true to form, I got us hopelessly lost. There we were, the two of us in a Chevy Celebrity, rolling down six-lane boulevards bounded on either side by run-down, boarded-up, frightening, endless rows of tenements with not a soul in sight.
I kept checking the gas gauge to make sure we had enough to eventually maneuver ourselves away from those scary streets, and we did, in time. But that became the next challenge – finding the cathedral in time to make the start of services. It would have been a real bust to go through all this, then miss Mass anyway. So on we drove.
In the days before GPS, all we had was a tattered and torn paper map of Pennsylvania, which may or may not have been outdated. We found the cathedral, then took our chances parking along the street in front, hoping that Philly’s finest wouldn’t be giving out parking tickets on Easter Sunday.
We hurried into the church just as Mass began. As we headed to an open pew, an older gentleman grabbed me by the arm, giving me and my frazzled nerves a nice little shock. He said, “We need someone to take up the gifts. Will the two of you help us with this?”
And at once, the day’s events snapped into Technicolor clarity. Every challenge that got thrown at us that Easter, we overcame. Praising God, thanking Christ for his sacrifice, had been our sole motivation, and it brought us to this tangible, physical expression of that idea. I interpreted our opportunity to bring the bread and wine up the aisle to the bishop during Mass as a blessing, a source of grace, and an expression of appreciation from above for our efforts to worship Him that Easter.
We got lost again heading out of Philadelphia that spring evening, but not as bad. When we called our respective parents that night and told them the story, they all thought we were nuts. But, for all of the strange twists and turns that Easter, we’ve never regretted it.
And, as we finally settled in that night to go to sleep, the thought struck me once more as I looked across the pillows. She’s my truest blessing, my lifetime partner. And she never looked lovelier.
Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting