Easter is a celebration of redemption and of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Those concepts are big and difficult to grasp. Is it any wonder that Easter is often a celebration best known for egg hunts, baskets of chocolates and family meals? Keeping the holiday light and festive makes it popular, but the question remains — what difference does Easter make in our day-to-day lives?

A few years back, the pastor at a church I attended asked, “What is eternal life?” The answers were primarily variations on “heaven” and “what happens when we die”. The pastor’s response has kept me thinking many years later: Eternal life, according to the Bible, is knowing Christ, and that is something we can experience right now. The Gospel of John says that this was Jesus’ prayer before His crucifixion:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:1-3

Because we believe Jesus rose again, our Easter celebrations commemorate that we can begin to experience eternal life — in the here and now.

Over the past 15 months, while caring for my father, Sam Masoudi, he and I experienced the redemption and eternal life that Jesus promises. My father was 88 and had been diagnosed with advanced dementia. His body and mind were failing, and death was imminent. My one prayer was that my father would continue to sense God’s loving presence even as his health was in rapid decline. I thought often of this passage:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV

God answered my prayers daily throughout those months. Even as my father grew weaker and weaker, he continually experienced the peace that passes all understanding promised by God in Christ. Much of that peace came through the very ordinary conduits of the care I and others provided, as well as friendships, family gatherings, beauty in nature, attending church and the wonder found in every ‘ordinary’ day.

After a bad fall in July, my father lost a lot of his language and hardly spoke at all. On rare occasions he would say a few sentences. In December, he said this: “If anyone asked me what the highest point of my life was, I would say it’s right now.”

The months when his health was declining held many challenges and were not easy. Through the help of my father’s neighbor, Annie, wonderful caregivers, and the ability that God gave me to persevere, my father was able to remain in his home until he died. My prayer, that we experience the eternal life secured through Christ’s death and resurrection, had been answered.

My father passed away March 15th. If he were here to celebrate Easter, this is how he would have prayed: “Thank you God. Thank you Lord. Thank you Jesus. And thank you very much.”