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The other day our friend, a rabbi, came to Jo’s Farm to purchase eggs for Passover. 

The rabbi asked my husband to take some pictures of him collecting the newly laid eggs from the nesting boxes on the outside of the coop. He wanted to show his friends where the fresh eggs came from that he would use for Passover.

A few days later, I asked the Rabbi to send me the pictures so I could show Jo. When I looked at the pictures, I was moved by this simple gesture of our rabbi friend collecting eggs from our chickens. I thought about how an egg is a symbol that unites the Jewish and Christian faiths in our solemn commemorations of mourning and celebrations of new life. 

There are lengthy explanations for why an egg is included on the Seder plate at Passover.

You can read the whole explanation here at my favorite website for information on the Jewish faith.

But here’s a brief summary from the reference above which helped me to better understand the symbolism of an egg in the Jewish Seder:

While many of the explanations about the egg have to do with mourning our past, the egg also symbolizes our hope and prayer for the future. When a chicken lays an egg, the egg appears to be a completed object. Yet in truth, it isn’t complete, and the egg is just a preparation for the live creature that will emerge from it later. So too the Exodus from Egypt, while at first appearing to be an end in itself, in truth is only a preparation for the Final Redemption, with the coming of Moshiach—may it be speedily in our days!” (Seder Haggadah, Sefer ha-Zemanim by Rabbi Yaakov of Izhbitz, s.v. Shulchan Orech.)

From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are a symbol of new life and redemption.  The egg is said to represent Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb. I also read that decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to the 13th century and some cultures stained their eggs red in memory of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.

When I was growing up, we colored dozens of hard boiled Easter eggs and my parents hid them all over the house. They even hid them in the yard when the weather was nice. When we were raising our kids, we used to hold an Easter egg hunt for neighbors too— but we switched to plastic eggs filled with chocolate.

One unique Easter tradition developed after Johanna got her first service dog and when we started raising puppies for Canine Companions. We filled plastic eggs with dog kibble and set them out for the dogs to retrieve and open. After the first couple of eggs, the dogs figured out the game and learned to alert to the sight of colored plastic eggs! That was a fun tradition that we still do to this day. 

When we started raising chickens, the symbolism of eggs as a sign of spring and even eternal life took on a whole new perspective for us. We started our first flock of 10 chickens from 1-day-old chicks early in the pandemic and only weeks before Easter. 

Lent and Easter were so strange for us that year because of the shut-downs that closed churches. We did our best to maintain some sense of our Catholic traditions at home. Raising chicks — Jo says they are only cute for a day and then they are hard work — really did help to remind us of the hope of new life and spring and an end to the pandemic.

A year later, in 2021 those same chickens started laying eggs and the tradition of coloring and hiding Easter eggs now held a deeper and more tangible symbol of new life for us. Our chickens lay a variety of colors of light and dark brown, pink, green and blue. We actually considered not dying the eggs at all, but we were so glad we did! We discovered that Jo’s farm fresh eggs readily soak up the dye and produce vibrant colors! Store-bought eggs just can’t compare.  

Chickens typically slow down in egg production in the longer, darker days of winter. So for us, the rise in egg production signals the start of longer days and the coming of new life in spring. 

Selling fresh eggs also became a safe way for Jo to reconnect with our local community during the rising and falling of COVID infections. Ironically — and I believe providentially —my daughter has spent more time outside in the past two years than she has in the past 25, largely because of her backyard farm. 

The symbolism of Easter eggs as a sign of new life and Christ’s resurrection is not lost on us anymore.

While our rabbi friend came to gather eggs for Passover from Jo’s Farm, Jo and I were in NYC handing out six-packs of eggs to her healthcare team at NYU. The proud smile on Jo’s face and on the faces of those receiving the gifts were a welcome light on a dark day.

It was a scary day to be in NYC. The Brooklyn subway shooting occurred while we were en route to the city. After reconfirming the appointments with radiology and Jo’s doctors, I just kept driving and praying as we listened to the updates on the news reports. 

Throughout the day, I checked in to be sure that the bridges and tunnels weren’t closing and that I could still drive home. Except for increased police presence in the transit system our trip to the city largely went as planned, even as apprehensions surrounded the visit.

Jo got another MRI that showed more recent hemorrhages and swelling in the brain. The experimental medication they tried to decrease the hemorrhages certainly didn’t help and it actually caused Jo’s balance to get worse. It was decided to stop that medication. One of Jo’s doctors asked me to let them know if I hear of any new trials or treatments that are being used because I try to stay informed on research regarding this rare disease.

I told the doctor that I would certainly let her know if I heard anything, especially from the other families who are battling this disease and she could let me know as well.

Then I smiled and explained, “These days I am spending more time living a full life with Jo on her backyard farm and less time searching for a cure.” 

Living one’s life focused on a cure for disease can actually take away from living the life we are trying so desperately to prolong. There are mysteries hidden within the changing seasons, the grieving of life’s sorrows and the celebrations of our triumphs over darkness — especially acknowledged in these holy days of the Passover and Easter season and in a simple egg. 

When I need a reminder not to get weighed down and to celebrate life, all I need to do is take Jo’s hand and let her lead the way across our backyard to collect the eggs on Jo’s Farm.

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Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen