An Easter Story about a Bunny and a Biplane

Here is a true Easter story about a bunny and a biplane.

The year was 1971. I was living in the boarding school affiliated with Notre Dame Academy (now NDCL) in Chardon, Ohio. I lived with Sister Joanne (then Sister St. Colette) and twelve 16-year-old girls in a beautiful spacious house called Nazareth, situated on our vast provincial center property. It was April 11. It was also Easter Sunday. And it was my brother John’s 30th birthday.

John owned a fabricating shop. He had recently married Mary. They lived in Chardon with her 5-year-old son, Tony. In his spare time John liked to fly. In fact, he and several of his buddies pooled their money and bought a plane together. It was a biplane, a 1941 blue and stearmanyellow Stearman. Open cockpit. John  flew over our provincial center property sometimes. I could always tell when it was him even before I spotted the plane, because the Stearman made a distinctive sound–kind of a putt-putt-putt. When I heard it, most of the time I would run outside and wave to him. When he spotted me on the ground, he would tip his wings to me. What a feeling of connectedness that was. Every single time.

On this particular Easter I called John that morning to wish him a happy birthday. We chatted for a few minutes. Then he asked, “Are you going to be home this afternoon?” Yes, I said. I told him I would be at Nazareth. He said, “Good. I’ll fly over today. It’s Easter and I hear there are bunnies everywhere!” At that time, I didn’t know what he meant.

But sure enough, about 2:00, I heard the familiar putt-putt-putt of the biplane. I ran outside and saw John flying fairly low. I waved to him. He tipped his wings. Then I saw him, in the back seat of the plane, raise his giant arm up in the air. A moment later I saw a tiny parachute fluttering to the ground. Excited, I blue bunnyran to the field where it was headed. When I got there, I saw it on the ground—a small blue stuffed bunny hitched to a parachute made out of a kitchen towel. I picked it up and waved it in the air so John would see that I had retrieved it. John tipped his wings again and then flew slowly away.

Later I called John to thank him for the Easter surprise. He told me the bunny was Tony’s, but Tony said I could have it. Mary gave John the kitchen towel for the parachute. He told me it wasn’t easy to drop the bunny. He had to take into consideration the wind, his altitude, and the speed of the plane. Otherwise the bunny could have landed in the top of a tree somewhere in the middle of the woods! But it landed in the middle of the open field in front of Nazareth–exactly where he wanted it to land.

Why am I telling you this story today? Well, besides occurring on Easter, the story has a definite Easter theme. When I think of Easter I think of three words: surprise, joy, and love. Jesus’ resurrection was a surprise. For everyone. Even for his closest friends. His appearance brought immense joy to everyone who encountered him (after they got over their initial shock and disbelief). And finally, Easter is above all a love story. The Father’s love for Jesus. Jesus’ love for Abba. Jesus’ love for all of us. In rising from the dead, Jesus, through the power of his love, takes all of us with him! One day we too will rise with him. We are connected to him. Forever!

My little story (on a smaller scale) is an Easter story too. I had expected my brother simply to fly over. Waving to him and having him tip his wings would have been gift enough for me. But he surprised me with more: a parachuting bunny! A gift fashioned with his skill, time, and creativity. And what joy that gift gave to me. A joy I relive every time I recount the story. Though John is gone seven years now, the story celebrates our connectedness, a connectedness we still share even though he is “up in the heavens now” and I am still journeying down here on earth. That connectedness is love. And thanks to that first Easter, love, even after death, goes on forever!

I wish each of you a very joyful, love-filled, and surprise-filled Easter!

Suggestion: do something really nice for someone this week. Surprise them!


No Comments

  1. Lorna Greicius on April 19, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Very cool story!! Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a most blessed Easter too!

  2. SR.Kristel on April 19, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Happy & Blessed Easter to you.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Peggy Svoboda on April 19, 2014 at 9:28 am

    What a great story! I remember John flying over Chardon when we would be out to visit. What great memories. Have a happy and blessed Easter!

  4. S. Josita on April 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

    What a love-filled story! Thanks for sharing. Happy Easter and may it be filled with love and blessed with happy surprises.

  5. Bozo on April 19, 2014 at 10:40 am

    What a great Easter story, I loved it!

  6. Barbara on April 19, 2014 at 10:48 am

    May YOUR Easter be filled with love, joy and surprising moments of delight, Sr. Melannie. Thank you for sharing the story of your (most probably) your best ever Easter bunny.

  7. Cathy Baier on April 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I love how God surprises us. Today my intention was to take a walk in the park but on the way I saw a sign for the campus of LaRoche College and turned onto the beautiful grounds. There I discovered a tree lined path along outdoor stations of the cross as well as a labyrinth. What a gift that walk was!
    Blessed Easter!!

  8. Dorothy Janofsky on April 19, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    A great Easter story, Sr Melanie ( I am writing with tears in my eyes). I hope you have a happy and blessed Easter and that you have a surprise!


  9. florence on April 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    What a beautiful story. It so pleased me.
    We have a sweet great grandchild named Tony and that is just what he would do. He has often given us something that was his.
    We so miss going to church which we are not able to do because of our health problems. We pray that as the weather gets better, we can figure out a way.
    So glad that I have gotten acquainted with you.

  10. Fran on April 19, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you Sr. Melannie for another epiphany featuring your much-loved family. Such a lovely Easter message it contains.

  11. Chris Keil on April 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I was living at Nazareth that year!!!!!!! I LOVE that house!
    Happy Easter Sr. Melannie!!!!

  12. Mary Schneider on April 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I think your brother, John, is “parachuting” Easter blessings on you right now!

  13. Jean Shott on April 20, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your story and “remembering back”. John was always such a nice guy, even to nuisance younger cousins!

  14. Mary on April 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Sister Melannie:
    How much I needed to read your story about Easter and your brother. My brother loved to come to my house for Easter. When my children were little, Uncle Bobby was as important as the Easter Bunny! He has been dead for several years now. Each Easter dinner we have a toast to him and tell him we wish he could be with us. I sat down in the quiet this Easter evening and read your Sunflower Seeds. With tears I felt his connectedness and his love. Thank you for reminding me that he IS with us.

  15. Carol McH on April 21, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I never knew about your brother flying over our property.
    Thanks for such a great story and it’s true, just like Jesus’

  16. Jerry Heil on April 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Happy Easter! I enjoyed your bunny from the sky story. I wonder if Jesus using the current speech would have said to the Apostles on Easter evening: “Peace be with you, HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW!”

  17. Barb on April 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for this story. It not only reminds us of our Lord’s connectedness but of His unconditional love – the type of love that parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. have for family. Very heartwarming. Happy Easter season Sister.

  18. Jackie on April 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I just saw your talk on the Lenten program on Vision TV. When you said “You are not the general manager of the universe”I know God was sending that message to me through you. Thank you so much.

  19. Nancy Frederico on April 21, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Happy Easter Sr. Melannie!

    What a heart-warming story and a sure surprise when you saw this bunny descending from the skies!! Leave it to brothers to make us smile! I was a postulant at the time and am trying to remember …but Chardon Provincial Center is so vast…it may have been over my head!!
    Imagine, the surprise of Mary when she brought spices to anoint the Body of Jesus and was told He’s not here, He has Risen. Deep in my heart, I know my Dad and all my family and friends are celebrating Easter at the banquet table with Our Lord. Thank you for such a wonder-filled story!

  20. Ellen on April 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory. It made my day. Reminds me that our acts of kindness radiate in many ways. I feel the sheer joy you had that day and in retelling your story – yay!!

  21. Annie on April 22, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Great story! Thanks so much! Hope you see some real bunnies too this Easter season. Meanwhile the stuffed ones are more huggable. 🙂 Hug yours and ask an angel to take your hug up to John. Blessings!

  22. Marianne Arntz on April 28, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Tom & I loved this story–having stayed several times as guests at Nazareth when we brought Jake to see Sister Mary Luke. We could vividly picture the setting and it also brought back many loving memories of a brother and sister’s love for each other. Thank you.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on April 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      Dear Marianne and Tom, How nice to hear from you, the relatives of our dear Sister Mary Luke Arntz. I’m glad you had the chance to stay at Nazareth while visiting with Sister. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

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