My grandmother loved New England. Coastal New England, to be precise. She loved the region so much that she co-wrote a half dozen or so books on the topic. They sit proudly on a shelf in my basement.
In her waning years, with the sale of her enormous family home an inevitability, she had gathered together copies of all her books and made sure that we grandkids had one of each, if we wanted one. A piece of her legacy, printed and bound.
“Of course, I want a copy of each of your books,” I’d told her, unsure just how much shelf space we had to spare. She’d smiled.
My grandmother was one of the driving forces behind my own vocation as a writer. She encouraged me, edited my work, read every word for as long as she could. One writer to another.
So, on the day that my own book was published – March 15, 2022 – “Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith,” I found myself standing in front of that bookshelf in my basement, drawn to my grandmother’s work on coastal New England. Missing her. Wishing she, too, could share in the excitement of the moment. Joy cut by sorrow.
Perhaps a quick glance at her work, at a topic so meaningful to her and her story, would bring her back, I thought, if only for a moment, if only in my mind.
I opened “Exploring Coastal New England,” turned to the first few pages, and found myself swallowing down some sudden emotion: I’d forgotten that my grandmother had inscribed every book with a personal message in her delightfully atrocious handwriting.
The inscription read: “To Eric, the most talented writer I know, don’t ever stop writing.” The hyperbole of an encouraging grandmother still brought tears to my eyes, like she was there in the room.
Next, I opened “Guide to New Bedford.” “To Eric, always be open to other ideas.” I laughed. It was just like my grandmother to jot down little nuggets of wisdom and advice in odd and random places.
When we think of Easter, we so often imagine brightly colored eggs scattered about our backyards, hidden under bushes and behind trees. But Easter, we know, isn’t limited to colored eggs – and it’s not only colored eggs that are hidden on Easter Sunday.
Easter, too, is about hunting for hope. And we often find it in the same way we find those eggs: just a glimpse, a splash of color, and it’s up to us to rummage about until we grasp that hope in our hands, if only briefly.
For me as a Catholic, the Easter season is one of celebration, of rejoicing, when our greatest hopes become agreed upon fact – if just for a moment: Resurrection transforms relationships. I know my grandmother rejoices in my writing still today; I find great consolation in that, even if I wish to be able to hand her a copy of that book myself, to watch her eyes scan the words on the page.
The joy of Easter overcomes death and assures us that even the darkest of times give way to light. We believe this.
Here we are in a world maimed by war and pandemic, crippled by hatred and mistrust, and limping ever onward into a future of uncertainty. Images play out in our minds and on our screens and we shake our heads, shocked and horrified and fearful at the violence, bloodshed and downright meanness.
And, for me and my writing, I’ll never see my grandmother’s expression as she pages through my book.
So much for Easter. For hope. For celebration. Even resurrection might feel insufficient in the face of such human suffering and environmental desecration and disappointment.
And yet, in the “Guide to New Bedford,” an elderly woman wrote a note to her grandson to be open to new ideas. In “Exploring Coastal New England,” that same gray-haired lady wrote a note of encouragement, a note that would bring tears, hope, and not an insignificant amount of joy years after the ink dried.
And because of those words, that dried ink and sloppy handwriting, I muddle on. I hope and celebrate and push onward. And perhaps my words, too, will give hope to another – even as war wages and viruses circle the earth and the climate changes.
Hope is here for all of us this Easter season. But we might have to work for it. We might have to look for those small little winks from the universe, from God, from grandmothers, dead and gone. The proverbial Easter egg buried behind the bushes.
Hope doesn’t come in a blast of light and an eruption of pixie dust; hope appears as dried ink on the page and a stone that’s been rolled away. A small, quiet gesture of encouragement, hidden away in some books on New England, and an empty tomb.
It points to something, someone. And in the pointing, love.
Hope might demand something from us this Easter. We must not show up to the party empty-handed. Most of us aren’t called upon to broker peace. But each of us can offer kindness, encouragement, a smile and wink to those around us. A desire to transform relationships.
And love can surprise us, the effects it has, the seeds it plants, the ripples that it causes. The places where it’s found and shared and marveled at.
We can all find our guide to New Bedford, and in it, hope.