Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, and is a celebration of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. It’s a special day of remembrance for me for another reason as well.
Jesus arrived on the east side of Jerusalem, toward the Mount of Olives, on a donkey, a symbol of humility, peace, and royalty. People threw their cloaks on the road, an act of royal homage. The crowds yelled, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” which means, “Save now, O Lord.” They waved palm branches, used in celebrations of victory.
From ancient times, palms were used to symbolize victory. In ancient Greece, during the Olympics, the winners were given palm fronds to hold and raise in celebration.
Many Olympic medals depict those palms today…In 2005, my grandfather was called to heaven on Palm Sunday, after a long battle with MS. For 25 years he struggled with the effects of the disease, over half of that virtually unable to walk. During the last years, he was unable to move anything voluntarily from the neck down, and was cared for by my Grandmother. When it became impossible for her to continue to do so on her own, he spent his last years in structured care with her visiting him daily, or as often as her own health would allow.
Though weakened by disease, my grandfather was one of the strongest men I will ever know. His resolve, character, and faith came from a place deep within him that resonated out to everyone who knew him. His foundation was unshakable, and his love, unconditional.
I was not with him for his last few days. I was able to talk to him briefly over the phone, and learned of his passing from my father the same way, early Sunday morning. I turned immediately to my Godmother, who never fails to give me a faithful and hopeful perspective regardless of the circumstance, and with a joyful voice she reminded me it was Palm Sunday.
The heavens were rejoicing. The victory was being celebrated, and upon my Grandfather’s arrival to heaven, he was being greeted by a glorious celebration, singing, and the palms of Palm Sunday.
This amazing man, an inspiration to so many, who suffered quietly and without complaint for years, was finally home. Healthy, happily, home.
So it is with that memory that I celebrate each year. When they waive the palms in church on this Sunday morning, I celebrate Christ’s life here on earth, and the demonstration of Christ’s love that I learned from, and was blessed with, in my Grandfather.