My first Easter without my sister.

As we enter into the Easter season I can’t help to reflect back on my first Easter after losing my little sister.  Meredith was killed by a drunk driver on November 17th, 2016.  So Thanksgiving, Christmas, even her birthday and Mia’s birthday in January were all just a blur.  So as we approached Easter a few months later I dreaded it.  I couldn’t help but resent everything the Spring and Easter season represented: rebirth, regeneration and resurrection.  A new season proving that life goes on.  The world kept going and I didn’t want it to.  That year, my mom and I decided to go to sunrise service.  It was something we always wanted to do but always had an excuse. This year we knew better than to put it off and as I sat there bundled up in a blanket in the courtyard singing “Jesus Paid It All” as the sun rose up from the east over the stage I cried and cried and cried.  For the first time since my sister’s death I experienced new emotions: an overflowing sense of peace, hope, and gratitude.

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.

Luke 42:22 (NLT)

It wasn’t until I experienced grief like I did losing Meredith, could I feel, like really feel, the grief of Easter.  I could feel the anguish that Jesus must have felt knowing this was to come.  So much so he asked God in the garden of Gethsemane “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 42:22)”  I could imagine the agony his mother must have felt watching her son up on that cross and the deep sense of despair and hopelessness his disciples felt witnessing such suffering of their teacher; not understanding at the time what was really happening.  I had heard the story 1,000 times but now that I had experienced my own despair and deep grief, for the first time I more clearly understood what was really given up that day.  

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 (NIV)

In the same breath, between the tears, I also more deeply understood the beauty of what was GAINED that day!  What happened on that cross – the new covenant that was sealed assuring me of my sister’s place in Heaven next to Him… and a place for you and a place for me.  Oh, the peace that surrounded me that morning.  I felt God’s presence.  I felt the message.  I understood like never before.   Up on that cross, his last word was “Tetelestai” which translates from Hebrew to English as “It is finished.”  Do you understand the power in that?  I hadn’t until I could tie it back to my sister, thank you Jesus.  Tetelestai.  What he came to do was finished.  It was done!  There is nothing else any of us have to do to “get to Heaven.”  Him dying for us is it!  And in his final breath, it is finished!  He endured the most violent suffering and gruesome death.  It was beyond comprehension.  It was humiliating.  Yet, it was the plan all along.  Our ultimate passover lamb.  And for all that believe in Him, His death is just our beginning.  Tetelestai.  He’s got my sister.  And He had me that Sunday morning and every morning since then.  It is the greatest love story ever told. 

And of course, the story doesn’t end there! Three days later He returned to the Father, just as He said.  And not just for himself but to prepare a room for us (John 14:1-3)  This is the ultimate peace and hope for me.  It doesn’t mean I do not miss my sister every day.  In fact I don’t  think there is a day I don’t grieve her absence and grieve what she is missing out on watching Mia grow into the beautiful young woman she is becoming.  It means that beyond my heartbreak and grief I can trust in the promise of Jesus and what was given to me that day on the cross.  It is this sense of peace that transcends all earthly understanding in Christ Jesus. 

Natalie, her sister Meredith, and her mom at The Lumineers Concert in Nashville in September 2016.

So, as we enter into this Easter season.  I know all too well what Spring and Easter may represent to you.  I know no matter how long ago or recently your loved one has died what it may feel like right now.  Grief is a tumultuous roller coaster of emotions, especially around the Holidays. Ultimately, I know it’s another Holiday without your person. It’s a reminder of how life goes on. It’s a gap in your family’s tradition and a hard to ignore empty seat at the table.  Some of you may even be questioning how real God is because what kind of God would leave your family to suffer like this.  And that is ok too, I’ve been there.  What I learned is that He is a big God and He can handle those feelings and He will never leave your side.  I just want you to know, no matter where you are in your journey: Tetelestai.  What He did on that cross was for your loved one.  It was for you.  It was for me. It is finished.  He is near to the brokenhearted and He has told us these things so that in Him we may have peace. He says: “…in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).  I pray that you, too, will be surrounded by the same peace, hope and gratitude this Easter season that surrounded me that cool Easter morning in 2017.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NIV)

God bless and Happy Easter!

Natalie (founder of The Joy Mission)

Natalie Sorrells

Natalie Sorrells

Natalie is the Founder of the Joy Mission living in Atlanta.