The Day Easter Became Real To Me

Every spring right before Easter, my grandmother (my father’s mother) used to say, “This is too pretty.” She’d close her eyes, refusing to look at yellow bells.

And dogwoods.

I’d beg her to please peek at the colors.

She wouldn’t do it. Maybe she had her own version of spring and wanted to keep it that way.

I’ve done the same thing about Easter–not with my eyes but with my heart. I get this uncomfortable feeling. Easter’s so deep and wide, it’s hard to think about.

Because Easter means a lot more than pretty pastels. 

Easter means The Cross.

What Jesus did for me. 

And I can’t pay Him back. Or even the score. 

My attempts to be good are like filthy rags. 

I can’t save myself.

Only by His death am I saved. 

He died for me. 

I’m tearing up right now remembering the day Easter became real to me. When the first person in my family died in 1983, I was afraid to look inside the casket. When I finally did, I saw my father’s 48-year-old freckled fingers, his bald head from radiation and chemo, and one emotion came over me.

I wasn’t expecting it.


This is not who my father is.  

This is an empty shell. An earthsuit. 

Daddy’s not here.

That July night, I stood in my back yard behind the house where I grew up.

I saw the most glorious sight I’d ever seen, as if God created new colors just for me. With my eyes wide open, I experienced a glimpse of His Power.

Because Jesus had been raised from the dead,

So had Daddy. 

Because He overcame death and sin,

We are free.

That’s what Easter means. 

This song expresses it beautifully. If you can’t see the video below, click here It’s so worth listening to!

Have you experienced Easter moments when heaven came to earth?



sunset *from Christian Photos. Net 





  1. Beautiful, Julie. Your father was so young. Don’t you remember when 48 used to seem so old. Now, I’m so close to it, I’m almost touching it. This earthly life is so fleeting.

    Jesus. He colors our world. So beautifully.

    And I love this song. I listen to it almost every night before going to bed.


    • Yes, Daddy was young. I’ve passed his age–by a few years. Sometimes I think about it…

      Exquisite words. Wow, “Jesus. He colors our world.”

      I know–this song just gets me every time I listen to it. Saw raw and real.


  2. Beautiful words of hope, friend.

  3. My dad died on Easter morning….I think a little message to me from God. And you are so right, Julie….Easter becomes very real when someone you love dies.

  4. Cathy Mayfield says:

    An “Easter moment” for you, Julie, one to send what I call “goosebumps of grace” through your soul. About 29 years ago, a couple came to minister at the church we attended. They did a dramatic interpretation of the Easter story, complete with music that set my heart racing. Afterwards, I bought their tapes, including one with the song “He’s Alive!” (The one that is both talking and singing.)

    The next day at home, I was making dinner, my then-two-year-old daughter in her highchair at my side. Holly loved music of any kind, shown today by vocal performances in many avenues. I popped in the cassette I’d bought and we sang along with the beautiful music. (Yes, she could sing at two!)

    When the song “He’s Alive” came on, Holly sat very still and listened to the words. Her eyes reflected the impact of its message as she listened. When the music crescendoed to confirm the apostle’s glimpse inside the empty tomb and he sang the title words, I wished I’d had a video camera. Holly looked at me with tears in her eyes and wonder on her face.

    “Mommy…Jesus is alive. He’s alive!”

    She insisted we listen to that song over and over. The Easter message rang out in truth! Holly went on to serve Jesus and sing of His words to anyone who would listen, here and in El Salvador, Zambia, the Bronx, and on a native reserve in Canada.

    My friends…Jesus is alive! He’s alive! Never ever forget it!

    • Oh, Cathy.

      Grace goosebumps. Big time.

      Isn’t it like God to stir the hearts of children. Holly KNEW the Truth down in her heart.

      Such a beautiful story. Thank you.

  5. Patti Wiersma says:

    Thank you Julie. You have a gift. Please keep sharing it. You help me put things in perspective, and with perfect timing. What a beautiful song, too. Blessings to you and your family this Easter.

    • Patti…

      Your words, once again, I’m tearing up. Every week, after Wednesday passes, I think, well, that’s it. I’m not sure I’ll have something to write about next week.

      Then, I pray….Lord, help me. I can’t do this without You. I need you.

      Thank you, my friend. Speaks to my soul.

  6. Anna Haney says:

    Wow. I have lost loved ones near Easter in the past and like you, I felt some peace when I saw my grandmother in the casket because I realized where she was. If I really try to think of what Jesus did for me, for all of us, I cannot wrap my brain around it. Loved this post. So beautiful!

    • Anna, I probably should’ve said I went on to feel other emotions (and also before my father died). Like sorrow. And I had lots of questions–things I didn’t understand. I still don’t. But at that one moment when I was so afraid to look, Peace took over and I knew–Daddy’s not here. He has to be somewhere. He’s with Jesus.

      Thank you for commenting, my friend.

      So much love.

  7. Kim says:

    Heaven came to earth for me when I allowed Jesus to come into my broken memories and wounded past and to heal me mentally and emotionally. Inner healing is so freeing and beautiful. Only He is capable of such miracles.

    • Ohh, Kim…

      More tears of praise now.

      Nothing like healing of our pasts.

      Thank you for sharing. I’m with you…I understand.

  8. Beautiful, Julie. You’re right, Easter and the power it holds is too much for me to even begin to comprehend. But the good news is, I don’t have to understand it all. He tells me to come as a little child, trusting, with eyes wide open in expectation.

    And that’s where I pray I’ll stay until I stand with Jesus…and understand.

    • Yes, Vonda! Love your thoughts.

      I don’t have to understand. Because I can’t.

      Childlike trust right now.

      Thank you.

  9. Tears are springing to my eyes. Cliche, I know, but it’s true. I feel for you … seeing your 48-y-o daddy with freckled hands, and your feeling of peace. I saw my daddy at 69 in his own casket with his own older, freckled hands, and I felt peace. He went to heaven, like your father, like so many fathers. That sunset is gorgeous, and so are the multitude of vibrant-colored butterflies that to me represent the freedom my father has, free from his oxygen line draped around his ears and into his nose, from the lack of air into his lungs that made him tired and weak, and the pain of surgeries and being housebound at the end.

    Easter came to me one Palm Sunday at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (it was probably there way before, but I truly felt it that day). Tears flowed down my face when we sang the song that God had grown the tree that became the cross that his son died upon. Oh, my, what a feeling. I still cry when I think about that today. Like right now, typing this.

    Thank you, Julie, for being a woman of my heart, who loves me despite my foibles, my sometimes angst, my imperfections and self-gratification. The meaning of Easter for me is truly giving of myself, and I’m striving for that each and every day.


    • B.J.

      I’m crying with all these comments. I thought about you as I wrote this…prayed it would feel like a hug. And your daddy had freckled hands too….

      Mount Hermon–nothing quite like that writers conference. I’ll never forget our time there–laughing and growing in understanding, and eating popcorn late at night.

      Wish you were with me right now. We’d take a walk down my driveway to the cross.

      I love you.

      • Oh, how I would love to take a walk down the driveway to the cross. I’m doing it in my head. We would chat, and share, and maybe even cry…and be filled with the emotions of understanding and love.

  10. Julie Gilleand says:

    Only a few minutes after reading your blog, I found a dear friend’s name in today’s obituaries. Vivian. She was 91 years old and had had a stroke a few weeks ago. I met her in a church where I worked as a secretary years ago. She and another elderly lady took turns coming in on Monday mornings and together we would count the Sunday offerings together, but the best part was all the fellowshipping we did on those Mondays. We listened to worship music, or online sermons while we worked. We shared, we laughed and we prayed for one another. Vivian was such a woman of God. She’s gone through so much in her life — being widowed at a young age, raising her children after that and working, never remarrying. Then cancer. She was a survivor but suffered a great deal. Then her adult sons both went through devastating health crises. And then this stroke. But if you knew Vivian, you’d never know she’d gone through so much. She was thankful for every blessing in spite of anything else that went wrong. I treasured her friendship and faith. A few days before her stroke I felt compelled to call her. We’d kept in touch in the years since I’d left that job and spoke by phone once in awhile and had gotten together a few times for lunch. I almost put off calling her, but something told me to call her “now”. I did, and we had such a lovely conversation. A few days later I got word about the stroke. I got to visit her in the hospital a few times and was so grateful that she knew who I was. She couldn’t speak, but she knew me a her eyes lit up when I walked into the room. I was so comforted by that and got to tell her I loved her and was praying for her. After I dried my eyes and blew my nose, sitting here at my desk at work, it dawned on me that Vivian had her home-going during Holy Week. Sad as I was, I am so happy for where she is now and look forward to the day I will see her again. Thank you for this blog, Julie, about your dear daddy and what made Easter real to you. This Easter I will think of Vivian’s being raised to new life. I can imagine the sadness the disciples must have felt even after knowing Jesus was alive again, just because he was physically absent from them.

    God bless you this Easter, my leaf sister.

    Other Julie

    • Leafy, Leafy–such a gorgeous memory. Thank you! You had me right there with you meeting Vivian. And as I read this, I had this thought–that God was so pleased with how you two spent those Mondays together–worshipping and enjoying His presence together. So simple. Yet so “of Him.”

      And she went Home during Holy Week.

      Thank you for sharing this part of your heart with us.

      Hugging you from here.

  11. so powerful Julie- thank you for that powerful word picture of you looking at your father and knowing he wasn’t there…xo

  12. Julie,

    I had the most awesome experience at my pain management doctor’s office Monday. I was there to get Botox for my migraines and was seeing a doctor I hadn’t seen before. I heard him say goodbye to the patient next door by saying, “Have a blessed day.” That peaked my curiosity. When he came in to see me, I told him I wanted to get the migraines under control before my upcoming surgery and how nervous I was about it. After he finished the Botox injections (ouch!), he look at me and said, “I don’t know your life views or anything like that, but Easter is this weekend. What do you think about that? Truth or a bunch of hooey?” I looked him square in the eye and said, “I believe Jesus died for my sins on that cross 2015 years ago with all my heart and soul, and nothing will ever persuade me differently. When I die, I will go to heaven, and I can’t wait!”

    Evidently this doctor had been raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist in Colorado. They were taught that man is on top, not God. When they die, they believe they lay in a box. That’s it. They’re done. So, at some point, his brother committed suicide. Thinking of his brother just gone was not comforting to him. I don’t know a lot about this religion but the part he was in was pretty radical. Around this same time his wife was being lead to participate a Christian Bible study and asked him to join her. He said “Hell no!” She said “Pretty please?” and so he did. I asked him what happened. He said, “I saw the truth.” I said, so what are you now?”, meaning what religion did he practice, but he surprised me by saying, “Just a dumb-ass Christian saved by Grace.”

    What a GREAT visit that was. I feel like we could have talked for hours over this…forget the Botox! Your story makes me think of when I was saved by Grace. A lot of people don’t believe young children understand enough to be saved, but I beg to differ. When I was 8 years old, for several Sundays in a row when the alter call was given (I was raised good ‘ole Southern Baptist where the preacher wiped his brow every 5 minutes while preaching the gospel!), I felt this tug at my heart. My heart pounded and I felt like I should go up front. I fought this feeling for at least a month of Sundays. I’m typically shy and didn’t like the thought of going in front of the whole church. Finally, on about the fifth Sunday, the tug and pull was so strong I truly believe that God might strike me mute if I didn’t go forward and proclaim that I believed that he had died for my sins. So I did. I slipped out of the pew, by myself while the congregation was praying, and went up and knelt at the alter. The preacher came over and we talked. He made very sure that I understood what I was proclaiming. I sobbed greatly with relief. Such a peace came over me at that moment that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my God was real! And he loved me! I’m glad I remember the day I was saved so vividly; it always puts special joy in my heart because it was the start of my road as a Christian which He has only strengthened during the years.

    Sorry for the long post but I got inspired. I haven’t written in my own blog in awhile. Maybe I’ll cut and paste this entry for my latest blog! 😉

    Thanks Julie, as always, for the inspiration!

    Lisa G.

    • Lisa–yes, yes, yes, this needs to be a blog entry! Yes, ma’am. I’m sitting here laughing–in a good way–at the doctor’s response about himself….Such honesty!!!!

      What a beautiful memory from your childhood…walking that long aisle with your heart about to pound out of your chest. I did the same thing. 🙂

      I have your name on my calendar for April 20th—sending love and prayers.

  13. Denise says:

    I have tears stinging my eyes after reading your blog entry. Beautiful ! I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

    In His Love,


  14. marci says:

    Wow, and Wow! The Day Easter became real! What a big thing to think on. I was so touched by your story and by the others stories. You certainly have inspired us/ me. As I read your blog, for some time, I’ve thought of something Elizabeth Sherrill wrote- while on a trip. The people would bring their birds to the park on a certain day each week, in fancy bird cages. Elizabeth, if I recall, at first thought it was to show off their birds and cages, but someone said, they bring the birds to the park so they can learn each other’s song.. and that was like a lightbulb moment for me. We come here each week, and through you – we are ‘learning each others song’

    My aunt that I lived with in my late teens and my husband and I lived with when we first married, until cancer took her.. I dreaded seeing her in the casket, but, there was a peace. Gone was the pain that had been on her face for so long. I felt her say, “I am OK now.”

    My brother, at 22, died on Easter day, 4/10/77. That gave Easter a whole new meaning for me.
    The year Tim was born, Easter was 4/10, and the day/ year he died. I somehow saw some meaning in that.

    Good Friday- that has always been so huge for me, that even now I cannot wrap my head around it it is so big,, but I take comfort, that that is OK, and I am not alone in that. God understands our limitations.

    This has given me what I needed to think on for this Holy Week. And helped me along the path to the cross, and on to Easter Day when He had risen!

    note: I also liked the crocheted placemats (?), that had the pineapple corners and star bursts. You know I would admire those and the hands that so carefully made them.

    I want to share what I saw on a journal cover.. ” When God speaks, take good notes.” That also struck me.

    God Bless,

    • Marci’a–our hearts are so connected, aren’t they. 🙂

      The Elizabeth Sherrill story–I’ve never heard this and oh, how I love it. She taught my little group at the Guideposts writer’s workshop in 2004. Ohhhh, such a dear lady. The birdcage thing–reminds me of how I can see something and be so quick to judge. Thank you for sharing it.

      Oh, my…you’ve experienced loved ones go on to heaven. I can tell–you understand what came over me that day.

      The place mats. I can’t believe it, but they’re not handmade. They’re plastic. 🙁 I love them. Mother gave them to me years ago. I can just wipe them off and reuse them, but I bet you could make some real ones like them!

      Love your journal cover! Sometimes it seems God speaks so softly, if I don’t write it down, His words will slip by me.

      • marci says:

        If I find that story by Elizabeth Sherrill again, I will try to e-mail it to you. It really jumped out at me when I read it, and I do so like her writings. I am so glad she is with G.P.
        Thank you for telling me about your placemats! Yes, I can see why you would love them and how easy they would be to care for–to clean. I have done pineapple crochet, and like it. It is not as hard as it may appear. I have to laugh at myself though- No wonder I couldn’t figure out the stitches in the middle since it was plastic! 🙂
        Church: While setting things up for the Easter Service and being there for the florist who was bringing the lilies,, the contractor came, and it seems they may be starting back to work on the church soon. It was held up for a while due to some issues with the insurance company. It is a long, and a growing process for our little church.

        Have a Blessed Easter!

        • Would love to see the Elizabeth Sherrill story, Marci’a…if you find it.

          Pineapple crochet does appear very difficult. And I’m not surprised you can do it. 🙂

          Hallelujah about the church! Maybe it’ll be finished by Christmas?


  15. Jacqi says:

    Julie- what a beautiful post. I love how God shows up in such big ways when we are so broken and need him desperately.

    My dad died five years ago on Good Friday. He was Catholic and very quiet about his faith and pretty much everything else (if we was even a believer, I couldn’t be sure when he was alive.) When he died I was devastated because I didn’t know if he was in Heaven. I remember one night that Easter weekend as I tried to sleep, I begged God to somehow let me know if my dad was with him. I’ll never forget what happened. In my mind, clear as day, I heard my name. And even though my eyes were closed, I “saw” a hallway. And down that hallway I saw my dad standing beside this bright light. It only lasted a split second, but I know my dad was standing with Jesus. I have never doubted since. God is so good.

    • Ohhh, Jacqi…more tears. These comments are just moving me so deeply today. God provided exactly what you needed. I’m so very sorry about your dad. Hurts my heart for you. But oh the Joy of how God answered your prayer.

      I’ve never written about it but something similar happened to me the night after Daddy died. It wasn’t about whether or not he was in Heaven, but I wondered if he was happy. And would he come back to be with us if he could. I “saw” him walk toward me. I remember what he was wearing–a blue/green sweater, jeans, and tennis shoes. He told me he had a lake near him in Heaven and he’d been fishing. He described how beautiful the colors were there. And he was so happy and he didn’t want to come back. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Just this…..sparkly kind of feeling.

      xoxoxoxo Hugging you from here. So glad we got to meet the other night.

  16. Patricia Martin says:

    Hi Julie! Happy Easter week to you and yours!(; I loved reading your post about your sweet father. It is so incredible that God loves us so much that He sent his son to die for us.Talk about grace and true love! Being a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian, I always remember how special Easter and Christmas celebrations at church have been. I am glad that I have had a chance to meet and love other Christian friends from different denominations-mainly Baptist and Catholic. Easter is so important because it reminds me that death has been conquered; we receive eternal life and the power of His resurrection through receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior. When Jesus comes again, we will all be reunited. Please say Happy Easter to your mom and Gene for me.

    • Amen, Patricia!!!

      Because He lives!!!! Will pass along your message to Mom and Gene. 🙂 Love to your family from ours~~

      Praying for your semester–almost done!

  17. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Please, forgive me for a second post…but I think I need to write this and ask you and your precious readers for prayer. So many of us seem to have lost our fathers at Easter. Mine died 8 years ago, and some days, my grief is still so intense it squeezes my chest till I cannot breathe. My dad was my protector, my provider, my champion. He was my daddy and I was his princess. Sounds like I’m talking about a different Father and beloved daughter, right? Believe me, I’ve spent hours trying to stay focused on that. Some days, I can; others, the tears flow for hours, until I’m too exhausted to cry any more.

    My dad did not live a Christian life, but he believed in God and loved his family with passion. He and my mom taught me about God’s world, took me to church, and gave me a legacy of giving and loving. Sometime in his last years, he accepted Christ, but I did not know until after he died. It took me a long time until I could accept it, which came from the Holy Spirit through a book of poems.

    I need prayer, my friends. I can’t keep this up. I can’t erase the picture of his last breath. I held his hand as he passed, after lung cancer had taken his voice box and left him a shell of who he’d been. I urged him to let go,something I swore I would not do, and told him it would all be okay (a lie, to me), that my brothers and I would look after my mom. That’s all he cared about – us, his family.

    Between you and me, I cry every day, sometimes for just a minute or two, other times throughout the entire day, off and on. Depressed? Yes. I write devos and articles about depression, and I know the ins and outs. I do hang on to my Jesus. I know I am not alone. But reading these blessed stories brought it all back full-force, especially right now, when my mom has decided to sell our home of 50 years, the only house that’s ever truly felt like “home” to me. It’s like losing him all over again.

    Please, if anyone has any words to soothe this present hurt, I’d appreciate them. I’ll be okay in the long run, but today…

    • Kim says:

      Oh Cathy, though I have not lost my father, your post breaks my heart. The thought of losing my earthly father is one of my biggest nightmares. I can only imagine your grief and sadness.

      Lord Jesus, please bring your peace to your precious daughter Cathy. Allow her to feel your comforting presence. Give her a joy in the place of her sadness. Thank you Father. I ask this in your Holy name. Amen

      • Kim, what you just did for Cathy–that’s what it’s all about.

        “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

        Agreeing in prayer with Kim.

        “Lord, your daughter, Cathy, is hurting right now. We’re praying You go to that place in her memory–the place that throbs in her heart–and bring healing. Minister to her pain. You are her Heavenly Father and are intimately acquainted with all her ways. You made her. You know her. We’re asking You to heal her hurts. Thank You–you’ve used these hurts to bless others, and now we ask You to lift this heaviness, in Jesus’ name. We love You.”

      • Cathy Mayfield says:

        Thank you, Kim and Julie, for your prayers. One more crisis gotten through. I’ll hang onto the prayers that I can be used through this to help the weary people in this world. Blessings!

        • Cathy, I was going somewhere today and the radio announcer mentioned this very thing–family members and Easter and going to heaven, and how it brings up so many feelings.

          I’ll keep praying, my friend.

    • marci says:

      Oh Cathy, my heart is going out to you, I know, I understand, My father passed away the day after Christmas, and the wound is still very much raw. As Julie had said to me in an earlier writing– there is no time limit on grieving. I will be holding you in prayers as I pray for myself, I will pray for you, and for the Lord to comfort you and sooth the pain you feel. I hope that these replies to your comment will help ease some of the pain. God Bless you, God comfort you.
      ” Lord give Cathy the comfort she needs. Ease her pain, and may she rest in your peace.”

  18. Oh Julie,
    your words, thoughts- the music- all touched me! As a little girl, I knew that Christ had risen from the dead and that meant we would live with Him forever! Easter never was about bunnies or eggs for me 🙂 But when I was 23, and I had to say goodbye to my mom, and a year later, when we said goodbye to our little girl, Kristin, I knew that I knew that I knew- Jesus has promised us eternal life. Our bodies are just an earthly shell and He has promised us a new body someday- until then- we will live with Him forever! He has defeated the power of death! What a Mighty Savior! Hallelujah! Rejoicing with you in His Victory this Easter. hugs and blessings,

    • Wish we were face-to-face talking, Cindy. I didn’t know you’d been through this–loosing such dear loved ones. I was 23 too when my father died. 28 when our son died.

      So much love–Easter Blessings to you and yours~

  19. Shelley Elaine says:

    Patti said it so well…I couldn’t agree more…thank you for sharing with us Julie and for introducing me to this song…going to download it now…Happy Easter!!!

    • You’re so welcome, Shelley. This song–I’ve been singing it under my breath all morning!

      Happy Easter! xo

  20. Blessed Easter, dear Julie! Thank you for sharing this wonderful song with us.

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