By Ray Lenarcic

Easter, like every other holiday, means different things to different people. During my childhood, it meant Sunday morning service at the First Baptist. Rev. Fred Thorne’s booming voice reminded us of the Savior’s death, resurrection, and the importance of leading a righteous life. He would have made Cotton Mather proud. The sermon was interspersed by the congregation belting out Christ Arose and How Great Thou Art. Easter also meant baskets spilling over with multicolored eggs, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans; dinners featuring baked ham, scalloped taters (yuck!), carrots, and homemade apple pie with freshly whipped cream (yeah!); hot crossed buns; Easter lilies and, if the date was late enough, my favorite “flower”-purple lilacs in full bloom. I’m grateful that memories still allow me to revisit those halcyon days of yesteryear.

Easter also reminds me of an uprising that occurred in Dublin, Ireland, in 1916. I first learned about the “Rising” by listening to songs performed by the late, great Irish Balladeer Vince Colgan and, later, after reading the Nobel Prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats’ work-“Easter, 1916.” The doomed from the beginning rebellion lasted less than a week (April 24-29) and was instigated by a handful of patriots who were willing to die for their cause-ending the centuries-long British rule over the Emerald Isle. And die some did. The martyred 15 included the warrior-poet Padraic Pearse and labor leader James Connolly.

Yeats referred to the event as a “terrible beauty.” It was terrible because of the deaths alluded to in the above and “beautiful” because it set in motion a nationwide movement culminating in the emergence of the Irish Free State. In retrospect, that phrase, along with sunshine and shadows, can be used to aptly describe Irish history from the 17th through 20th centuries.

“Terrible and shadows” is exemplified by Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces’ slaughter of over 3000 Irish Catholics at Drogheda in 1649 or by the infamous 18th-century Penal Laws (e.g., forbade Catholic Church services and the “wearin’ o’ the green”) or the Potato Famine in the 1840s which took a million and a half lives, including hundreds of thousands of children. Another million Irish emigrated-future generations of whom reside in the Mohawk Valley and along the shores of old Lake Erie.

“Beauty and sunshine” pertain to a land whose countryside is highlighted by unique shades of green and breathtaking rose trees; a country with a rich literary (Pearse, O’Casey, Yeats) and musical (Colgan, McDermott, Irish Tenors, Clancy Bros.) heritage; a country occupied by friendly, humane people with a seemingly unquenchable thirst and an unshakable faith which enabled them to endure centuries of trial and tribulation.

Finally, Easter will always remind me of Mary Thorne, the pastor’s wife who epitomized the qualities of kindness and generosity. Those of us lucky enough to have had her as a Sunday School teacher have gone on, proudly, to live her lessons. I’ve been asked numerous times why I have been a community activist-why I spent 30 years trying to instill that special attribute in my students at Herkimer County Community College. The answer was and always will be-Mary Thorne. Take it easy on the peeps and chocolate bunnies, and remember, in Rev. Fred’s words, “Live your faith, and ours will be a better world for it.” Happy Easter!