When I think of Easter, I think of blood on a door and a car that rose from the dead.
I'll start with the door.
In the late 1990s, my wife and I lived in a concrete-block cottage in Chambers County, Ala. Early on Easter morning, I dreamed I heard somebody banging on the back door. I woke up and the knocking stopped, so I went back to sleep. A couple of hours later, I woke up again. It was still dark, and blue lights were flashing out on the highway.
After the sun rose, we got out of bed and ate breakfast and put on our church clothes. When we left the house, I went to lock the deadbolt and noticed bloody handprints on the middle of the door.
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It made me think of the lamb's blood the Israelites put on their doorposts in Egypt so the angel of death would pass them over.
I went back inside and called 911. The lady on the line didn't seem too concerned. Apparently, that kind of thing happens all the time in rural Alabama.
The next day, a man limped into the yard and asked if we'd seen his cell phone. He'd lost it when he flipped his car in the Easter morning darkness. I apologized for being a sound sleeper and walked up and down the highway with him looking for the phone.
We think it may have sunk in creek mud. He was thankful to have survived.
Years earlier, when I was a college freshman, I drove from Nashville to Chattanooga to spend Easter weekend with my grandmother. My little brother had borrowed my car for prom, so I was driving my mother's old Mercury station wagon. It was yellow with wood paneling. It had a 427 under the hood and handled like a battleship, so it was made for the Interstate.
My grandmother lived on Lookout Mountain, but I was giving a friend a lift home and had to drop him off downtown. I was running low on gas but wanted to drop him off first because he was a cheapskate and I didn't want to get mad when I stopped and pumped gas and he didn't give me any money.
So we met his father in a Chattanooga parking lot, and then I drove away and promptly ran out of gas in front of a nice hotel called the Read House. I hitched a ride to a gas station and came back and filled up, but the station wagon wouldn't crank.
I called my Uncle Henry, who also lived on the mountain. I wasn't sure if he knew anything about cars but he was a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School. He showed up and suggested that the fuel line was clogged and that we should prime the carburetor.
I popped the hood and he sloshed some gas into the carburetor while I got behind the wheel and turned the key.
The engine immediately burst into flames. My uncle slammed down the hood and we could see flames flickering through the grill.
I grabbed the gas can and ran into the Read House and told the doorman to call the fire department. He told me to take the gas can and get the hell out of the Read House.
About 15 seconds later, a red truck pulled up and a fireman popped the hood and sprayed foam all over the engine. When the smoke cleared, I could see the crisp remains of wires and hoses. "You can just take this to the junkyard," the friendly fireman said.
We had it towed to a garage at the foot of the mountain, and then my uncle drove me to my grandmother's.
On Lookout Mountain, my grandmother told me not to worry. She never worried about anything. As her pastor told us years later at her funeral, she studied romance languages at Sweet Briar during the Great Depression. When I told her about the burned-up station wagon, she told me not to worry about it and pulled a giant pot roast out of the oven.
The next day, after a big breakfast, I called the garage and asked the mechanic what he suggested I do with the station wagon.
"Well, you can come down and get it," he said.
"You mean tow it somewhere else?" I asked.
"What?" he said. "Just drive it off. It's ready to go."
He had to be kidding. But my grandmother drove me down the mountain and the mechanic handed me the keys.
I asked him about all the wires and hoses that had been burned in half. He laughed. "Those are just anti-pollution devices," he said. "You don't need 'em."
Sure enough, the station wagon cranked right up.
Then and now, I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and I realize that such a feat defies science.
I also acknowledge that, right there in Chattanooga, as I drove the station wagon back up the mountain, I looked out the windshield at the charred hood and thought about the resurrection.
It was a stretch, sure, but I was 18 years old, and at that moment I had the faith of a child.
I'd like to go back to that place, and sometimes I do.
Happy Easter, everybody.