Before daybreak, after the daphne bloomed, during the daffodils, ahead of the lilacs, Molly and I, young and in love, walked hand-in-hand among the early birds.

The chirping a chorus of dawn in a canopy of cedar trees, Molly and I sang each other Paschal hymns, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” in the dewy faded perfume of the chilled morning. And death itself awoke. Dogwoods, she said, for the savior, she said, her green eyes gazed upon daisies suspended in jam jars halved with water for the altar in the Grotto. We dropped donations, quarters clinking in the metal box, and lit a vigil candle.

In the pocket of my jacket, which was wrapped around her, was a matchbox with sand scooped from the sea of Galilee; with Galilean bugs so far away from home that now the tiny bugs were tiny bones.

In the dull insipid light, we imagined Apostolic saints in hiding, peeking from second story windows where Lenten candles smoldered and the bruised reeds bended back.

I could have sworn I glimpsed a nervous angel tiptoe in anticipation of death’s defeat, rolling back the stone, the open gate to eternity.

And the sun came up, the clouds dissolved, the sparrows pecked the earth. The Lenten candles were reignited.

And all the faithful gathered dressed in coats and scarves and hats. And one-by-one they genuflected. And side-by-side they filled the Grotto pews. And heart-to-heart they knelt, and prayed more often than usual.

A good morning. A triumphant morning, A blessed morning.

Molly tapped my shoulder and whispered, “The Easter eggs?”

I whispered back, “In the sack.”

“May I have one?”

“After Mass.”

“Okay.”

Three-minute silence.

She tapped my shoulder and whispered, “The hot cross buns?”

I whispered back, “In the sack.”

“I’m hungry.”

“After Mass.”

“Okay. Happy Easter!”

“You, too, love.”

Van der Hout, who lives in Southeast Portland, attends Mass at St. Pius X Parish and Mount Angel Abbey.