A/N: In the timeline of the Alone series, this small piece occurs around 2014. The twins are 9 years old, Jon is 5 and little Beth is 1 year of age.
WOULD THE REAL EASTER PLEASE STAND UP?!
"Mommy, the Easter Bunny is coming tonight!" Jon exclaimed. "We have to color all the eggs so he can hide our baskets."
Only a few feet away at the kitchen table, Grace and Jake O'Neill rolled their eyes, nearly in unison. At the wise old age of nine, the two still loved to color eggs, but their little brother, well he was unbelievable. He actually believed the Easter Bunny was coming to hide baskets. Anyone who knew anything knew Mom and Dad did all the hiding.
Sam caught the looks on the twins' faces and smiled. How quickly they'd forgotten their own highly cherished fantasies, the Easter Bunny being one of them. With some pleading from their father, both older children had agreed to keep the crucial information from their siblings. Still, they couldn't figure out why their parents thought anyone should believe in something so silly and obviously untrue.
The O'Neills, like their families before them were C & E Catholics (that is, attending services Christmas and Easter only). Grace and Jake realized they'd be attending Mass on Easter, but Sam knew neither one of them knew why they'd be going. They might not believe in the Easter Bunny anymore, but she and Jack had so far failed to explain the real reason for the celebration.
It was probably time to make some changes. Easter was as good a time as any to start.
Like many parents, the O'Neills found themselves reexamining their own beliefs once they had children. Once the twins were born, Sam and Jack had struggled to find a place in their new family for religious belief and tradition. Neither one of them had grown up in a particularly religious family. Both were nominally Catholic and had at least a nodding acquaintance with the real Easter story, but they had mixed feelings about introducing the children to any formal religious practice.
Years ago, Sam had begun to tell the children about a God of her understanding. In very general terms, she'd started to describe to her little ones a benevolent power who always watched over them, much like mommy and daddy. She'd been convinced that whatever else happened, the children needed a foundation of inner strength on which to build the rest of their lives. As she discussed many times with her husband, certainly family love and loyalty was a huge part of that strength. However, she knew something more was needed. She believed that something was faith.
To his surprise, as he watched his children grow, Jack realized he did believe in something, though in many ways it frightened him to call that something God. That belief had kept him going during difficult times, even when important people in his life left or betrayed him. Moreover the more he thought about it, he decided it was the inner certainty of that faith that made him and other like him immune to the lure of creatures like the Goa'uld and Ori pretenders.
"Jon, come over here for a minute," Sam said, sitting down in the living room and motioning her youngest son to sit on her lap. "I want to tell you the story of what Easter is really all about."
"Okay, Mommy," Jon said, "but I already know all about the Easter Bunny."
Hearing the words Easter Bunny, which she now knew were associated with candy, Beth, who'd been cruising along the furniture looking for excitement, came over to her mother as well. And the twins, well they'd abandoned their egg coloring in anticipation of their little brother's enlightenment. Of course, Jake and Grace didn't know much about Easter either, but they did remember it had something to do with Jesus, the baby who had a birthday on Christmas.
"Do you remember who Jesus is?" Sam asked with the gentle voice of a patient teacher.
"I do,' Jake announced. "He's God's very special baby."
"He's the reason we get lots of presents on Christmas," Jon chimed in.
Sam winced inwardly at her little boy's interpretation, knowing that what she'd told him so far had missed the mark. But he was only five.
"Pwesent?" Beth asked hopefully. At barely twelve months of age, her vocabulary was limited, but the word present, or an approximation thereof, had been well taught by her siblings.
"You're right, Jon," Sam said, helping Beth up onto the loveseat next to her. "Jesus is God's very special baby. And he grew up long ago, just like you are going to grow up."
"Was he as tall as Daddy?" Jon asked innocently.
"I'm not sure, honey," Sam admitted, "but he was all grown up. And he had a job to do, a very important job."
"You never told us about Jesus doing any work, Mom," Grace protested. By now Jack had noticed the impromptu family gathering and taken a seat by his wife, welcoming Grace to a seat of honor on his lap.
"Then I left out a very important part of the story," Sam said, not sure she was up to this. After all, Christmas was a much easier story for children to understand.
"What was his job, Mom?" Jake asked, now wondering if he was as much in the dark as his little brother.
"Back in those days, very long ago, people were in a lot of trouble. So, because God cared about them, just like he cares about us, he sent Jesus, his very special baby to save them."
"A baby can't save people," Jon protested in a skeptical voice, looking at his baby sister as an example of how helpless a "baby" would be to save anyone.
"That's why he grew up to be big first," Jack said, finally contributing to the conversation. He shrugged his shoulders when Sam looked surprised by his contribution.
"Just saying, is all…"
"So what happened when he grew up?" Grace asked, realizing she didn't remember anything about that.
"When he grew up, Jesus tried to teach the people how to live in peace and treat each other with love and respect," Sam continued. "Some people got very angry with him and wanted to stop him from teaching."
"Why were they angry?" Jon asked.
"Because they liked fighting each other," Jack added, "and they didn't want to change what they were doing."
"Oh," Jon said. Clearly his dad's words made perfect sense even to his child's mind.
Sam smiled at Jack. For all her husband's protest that none of this made much sense to him, he got it. In his heart, Sam knew he believed, at least in the central core of the message.
"Then what happened?" Grace asked. "Did they fight Jesus?"
"They wanted to. Only Jesus wouldn't fight back," Sam answered. "So the men and women who were angry with him treated him very badly and hurt him."
"She means they beat him up, Jon," Jake found it necessary to add. He was starting to remember parts of this story.
"They beat up Jesus so bad that he died," Jack added.
Jon looked very sad. Beth, sensing her little brother's mood, started to fuss on the loveseat between her mother and father.
"But why didn't Jesus get away from the angry people?" Grace asked.
"Because it was the only way Jesus could teach the people what they needed to learn about love and save them from all the trouble they were in," Sam said, becoming unsure how to proceed, but doing her best. "The people were so used to doing bad things, showing that he was willing to die for them was the only way to could get their attention and prove how serious he was."
"That's so sad, Mommy," Grace said. "I thought Easter was a happy day."
"It is, Grace" Jack said. "You see, that's not the end of the story."
"Your dad's right," Sam said, interpreting Jack's pleading look as her cue to continue. "Three days after Jesus died, he came back to life. This was on the very first Easter, a long time ago. How that happened is a very special mystery. But it happened because God loved the people so much he knew they needed to see Jesus again."
"Really? So he wasn't really dead?" the five-year-old asked, still unsure of the finality of death. Jon's older siblings, on the other hand, understood that death was forever; they stared at their mother in amazement as they listened to the end of the story.
Sam realized she'd backed herself into a corner where even theologians weren't exactly clear on what had happened. And since she was a doctor of astrophysics and not theology, she decided to keep it simple.
"Remember how I said it's a mystery?" Sam began. "God's love for people is bigger than death, so he brought Jesus back to life to finish his teaching. It was very special, the only time that's ever happened."
"Is Jesus still alive?" Grace asked.
"If he is, he must be very old," Jake said, trying to wrap his young mind around this.
"No, Jesus doesn't live like us anymore," Sam said. "But his spirit, his teachings and his words have remained alive in many, many people until today."
"I think that's why your mom and I want to tell you all of this," Jack said.
"So we keep it alive?" Grace asked.
"And people don't forget." Jake added.
"Exactly," Sam said, smiling gently at these children, whose innocence and wide-eyed wonder was such a gift.
"So does this mean we can't color Easter eggs or get candy?" Jon asked, starting to worry about how this new information would affect him today.
"Of course not, slugger," Jack answered his son, standing up and swinging the boy onto his shoulders. "But your Mom and I wanted you to know the real story of Easter. It's a lot more than eggs and bunnies. It's the story of love that's really important. None of the rest of it means anything without the real Easter story."
Grace and Jake looked at their father thoughtfully. "Thanks, Dad. We're glad we know the real story now," Jake piped up. Then after a moment, Grace added, "Jesus is a hero, isn't he?"
"Yes, Princess," her father answered, "a hero for everyone". Including me, he thought, marveling at what his children taught him today.
"Now can we color eggs?" Jon asked.
"Absolutely," Jack answered, ready to resume the simpler part of the holiday, but knowing his children would continue to learn and ponder the real story as well.
A/N: Clearly this is different from my usual stories and I hope not too preachy. I've always seen Easter as a religious holiday and hope that the children of this generation pass on the story of faith that it teaches.