“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts... Practice resurrection.”
—Wendell Berry, in “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”
In the church that raised me, there was a woman named Gussie. Gussie was eighty-one years older than me. I considered her a special friend. Gussie was the kind of person who just about everyone considered a special friend. One of the wonderful things about Gussie was that she dressed for church. She emerged from the struggles of her life with a commitment to beauty and elegance. Her formal suit, hat, and gloves stood out in the congregation. Most people in this suburban Seattle congregation dressed in Polar fleece and sensible shoes, as if a hike might break out at any moment. On Easter, Gussie always outdid herself, wearing an Easter bonnet tastefully done up with flowers. Everyone looked forward to seeing the beauty and joy she embodied on Easter mornings.
Gussie died when she was in her late 90s after a long, meaningful life and a brief illness. She died in the early spring, a few weeks before Easter. We all mourned. People shared how sad they would be sad to not see Gussie in her beautiful Easter bonnet that year. It felt like the end of Gussie’s story.
Then someone had an idea: What if we wore Easter bonnets like Gussie did? The word spread. That Easter morning, the sanctuary was filled with Easter bonnets and other hats on the heads of dozens of people of all genders. It was beautiful.
The church has continued that tradition. People wear Easter bonnets and other hats every Easter morning. People who loved Gussie, people who never knew Gussie, and people who weren't even born before her death have all been invited into Gussie’s story. Her commitment to beauty and joy lives on. While this Easter bonnet tradition has faded some over the years, it has continued.
This is my favorite resurrection story: people of all ages and all genders wearing Easter bonnets, year after year, in memory of someone that not all of them remember. It's a triumph of love over death, which is the core of the Easter message. Death is never the end of the story. Gussie’s story continues on in the hearts—and on the heads—of the congregation that loved her.
In this season of struggle, may we find and create beauty and joy. May we know in our bones that death is not the end of the story. May we practice resurrection.