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‘Unless there is Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
âUnless there is Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sundayâ
The vault beneath the cupola in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is widely believed to be the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. An archaeological study on the site found that the tomb had never been moved.
Photos by Joanne Rae Ramirez

Thus said the late Cardinal Fulton J. Sheen, an American Catholic religious leader, evangelist, writer, and radio and television personality.

For the first time in more than two years, I see Easter as Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, and in many ways, symbolic of mankind’s resurrection from the Good Fridays of the coronavirus. And though the devastation in Ukraine has yet to see an Easter, we continue to hope and pray relentlessly.

Two years ago at around this time, I lost two very close friends to COVID-19. Ito Curata and Bob Miller were the face of the silent but deadly virus that I had only read about in the news. COVID was real.

We were locked down in our houses, we couldn’t go out without both a face mask and a face shield, businesses were shuttered, queues were commonplace in drug stores and supermarkets. There were shortages of disinfectants, masks and vitamins. Airplanes were grounded, livelihoods were stalled. Emergency Rooms couldn’t spare any beds, not even chairs, even for some who were gasping for air.

And lo and behold, in the weeks leading to Easter 2022, our Calvary has become less tortuous. COVID-19 numbers dipped significantly, Emergency Rooms are no longer helpless, and the economy is reopening. Our cross is becoming lighter.

Though the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a “possible” COVID surge in the Philippines in the next two months due to expected Easter and Ramadan gatherings by Filipinos and the May elections, it also gave a solution.

“The best way to protect them is through vaccination, because vaccines can lessen the risks of severe disease, hospitalization, or death,” WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rajendra Yadav said.

In other words, we are helpless no more. There is definitely more armor in our arsenal to protect ourselves. Our hands aren’t tied anymore.

“The great gift of Easter is hope,” once said the late Cardinal Basil Hume, an English Benedictine priest.

A report on the front page of The STAR last week said a majority of adult Filipinos expect the economy to improve this year, according to the results of a Social Weather Stations survey.

A branch similar to the one that made up Jesus’ ‘crown of thorns.’

I have started attending business lunches again and last week at the Blackbird Restaurant at the Nielsen Tower, every table was taken, though tables were farther apart. I attended the birthday party of my dear friend Rina Go at the Carpaccio, and the band was playing — literally and figuratively.

PeopleAsia magazine also held its first live, in-person “People of the Year” awards, the first in almost two years and two months. The red-carpet event at the Conrad Manila was a joyous success.

As we go through the solemnity of Good Friday, reflect on the suffering and death of Christ and the Good Fridays of our lives, we also know without a doubt that there will always be an Easter Sunday, and after the quiet, the band will start playing again.

***

I have had my own share of Good Fridays. In late 1992, shortly after celebrating our wedding anniversary, Ed and I lost our second child, a girl that was born alive but too prematurely.

Even if I could only run my finger through her cheeks as I said goodbye to her then, and never cradled her in my arms, she will always be in my heart. I never thought I would lose my baby. At the time, I believed that it was the only time that God didn’t answer my prayers. We christened her “Joanna.”

The ifs and whys of my loss have hounded me for years. But it was also by God’s grace that I didn’t wither away with my grief, and though there will always be questions like, “I wonder if she would have been married by now? Would she have also been a writer?”  the lingering pain from my loss is something I have come to accept as the many lingering joys that life has gifted me. Because pain makes you appreciate joy more, and empty cups make you appreciate the cups that runneth over. And most of all, I know that someday, hopefully in the far future, I’ll be running my hand through Joanna’s cheek again.

My father Frank Mayor’s death in 2010 was also a heavy cross. Dad had always been a fighter. He had always finished the race, even if it was against the waves in the sea that he would so often challenge. He emerged victorious in his first bout with cancer nine years before he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in 2009.

I couldn’t imagine Dad would lose his final battle. I didn’t see my daughter suffer, but I saw my father in pain. And yet, Dad never refused chemo treatments if they gave him even a glimmer of hope of more sunrises. He always looked forward to the Easter beyond his pain.

Sadly, Dad left us 10 months after his cancer diagnosis. There were no ifs and whys because we — he — did everything humanly possible to vanquish it. Maybe the only question in our hearts was, “Why Dad?” He was only 76 years old.

My former Religion teacher at the Assumption Convent, Cory Villafania, lost her 24-year-old son in a hit-and-run accident in 2011, seven years after losing her eldest child to kidney disease. Sympathizers would ask her, “Why you, Cory?”

“Why not me?” Cory answered us. “We should love God not only when things are going right for us. That would be convenience, not love.” She was a rock of faith and that faith didn’t collapse after her Good Friday.

In one of our prayer meetings before the accident, Cory said that all good things that happen in life come from God. I then asked her, “How about suffering?”

“It doesn’t come from God,” she said, “but He allows it to happen. Because suffering can be redemptive, and it can prune you, so that you can be a better person and love even more.”

Just as Good Friday redeemed mankind from sin, and Easter Sunday is a promise fulfilled, year after year after year since Christ died on the cross, we look at the Good Fridays of our lives as redemptive and fortifying, so that we may exult more in the Easters of our lives.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

CATHOLIC

JESUS CHRIST

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