This is a story the priest told at my Aunt Emily's funeral:
Joey was a young boy with serious health issues but when asked what he wanted most in life he asked to attend school like other boys and girls.
Now he struggled with getting to the classroom and sitting at a desk. He also found it difficult to hold a pencil and to complete the various tasks but he did the best he could.
His teacher on the other hand saw his struggle and worried that everything was too hard for him. It was difficult for her to make so many adjustments so Joey could complete the different assignments but she persisted until just before Christmas when she had enough. She called for a meeting with his mother to recommend he be sent to a specialized school or be home schooled.
Before she could speak the mother grasped her hands and said, “Joey is so happy to come to school and he loves you so much. However hard he struggles he enjoys the many things you've taught him to do.”
The teacher felt guilty for her feelings and didn’t say what she planned instead she made suggestions for ways the mother could help Joey at home so he could continue in school.
Things went on that way through the winter and then in early spring the teacher called the mother and told her to make sure Joey found an Easter symbol to bring to class so that he could participate in the class discussion.
The teacher gave each of the children an empty plastic egg shell and told them to put something in it that represented Easter and be ready to explain the symbol the next day.
The first child opened his egg and revealed a piece of green grass. He said, “Easter represents new beginnings.”
Another child had a picture of a chick and said, “Easter is rebirth.”
A third child opened up her egg and revealed a butterfly, “Easter is transformation.”
One by one each of the children had a chance and finally it was Joey’s turn but when he went before the class he struggled to open his egg and when he finally got it open the teacher could see his egg was empty. She didn’t want him to be embarrassed so quickly moved on to another activity.
Joey said, “Wait. You didn’t let me tell the class what my symbol represents.”
It hadn’t occurred to the teacher that Joey brought an empty egg on purpose but she stopped and gave him time to explain.
“The reason I don’t have anything in my egg is because it represents the empty tomb. Easter reminds us that Jesus has risen. Jesus came to earth to be born in the flesh so he could teach us how to live but the true purpose of his life was to show us that through his sacrifice we will rise again.”
Joey died during spring break but the class remembered his symbol and the true meaning of Easter. They missed him but knew he was with his heavenly father.
The priest went on to say that our rising is like each of us has a large balloon and our job is to do things that allow us to return to the father. Sins are like bricks or weights in the basket that keep us anchored to the ground. We must ask forgiveness to unleash those anchors and do good works to fill the balloon with air so we can lift up from this earth and return to our heavenly father.