I remember when Easter was all about two things: the candy and whoever was coming for Easter dinner, usually my mom's parents.

Easter baskets made the holiday a sort of mini-Christmas, with jelly beans, chocolate eggs and other goodies tucked into a brightly colored basket filled with green plastic "grass." Of course I had to wear a dress, which I didn't like, but the candy and company made it more or less bearable.

When I was young, we didn't go to church on Easter, because my parents weren't church people, but after I became an Episcopalian in high school, my father and I would go on Easter morning. When I was in the church choir, I went to the Easter Vigil the night before as well, and I think Dad went along because he liked the music.

Music and poetry pretty much were my father's religion, actually. Combined with kindness, they made for a spacious and humane secular faith. A college English teacher for 40 years, he loved words and the ideals they expressed, and he went out of his way to lure students into loving them, too. Sometimes he was successful.

Anyway, although I was moved by the Easter liturgy as a teen, I didn't really think much about the spiritual significance of the celebration until after I was out of college. In my late 20s, I was exposed to an Easter Vigil filled with drama, incense and mystery. It was also then that I started to attend multiple services during Holy Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Saturday night, followed by a potluck feast, then the joyous celebration Easter Sunday morning.

Some decades later, I was blown away by a Good Friday sermon in which the priest assured us that the message of that sorrowful day was that death does not get the last word: that belongs eternally to love. I don't remember what he said, but I do still recall how I was moved, even shaken, to my soul and felt the impact of it days later.

And now? Now I see Holy Week and Easter as inseparable parts of a whole. Without betrayal, death and grief, there can be no resurrection and new life. This death shows us concretely God's solidarity with the suffering not only of humanity, but of all creation. And when Jesus is resurrected, he calls his followers to live into the same solidarity.

I don't think the call is necessarily for us to physically die for our faith — though that has been the call for some — but to die to our egos, to having things our own way, to judging others and wanting them to live by our rules, to caring more about rules in general than about the welfare of God's creation, including animals, plants, people, streams, air — the whole shebang.

We are meant to find our joy and our true selves in service, which always goes two ways, makes us vulnerable and continually expands our ability to love.

Our own and others' hypocrisies are unimportant once we dedicate ourselves to simply soaking up, and passing on, as much love as we possibly can for the brief time we're here.

Happy Easter, and I hope your basket is full of delights.

Sarah E. Reynolds is the editor of The Republican Journal.