As Easter approaches, the sad ball in my belly just seems to grow and grow. People always talk about spending time with the living because once they're gone, it's too late. I've even said those words to others hundreds of times, but I am a hypocrite and my words taste like crow in my mouth.

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My grandpa was the most influential man in my life and next to my husband, he was the most loved as well. When my birth father decided I didn't matter enough to love, my Pop took me under his wing and raised me as if I were his own daughter. And to repay him, I grew up and didn't spend as much time with him when he was alive as I could and should have.

The last time that my entire immediate family was together for Easter was in 2011. That's right, ten years ago was the last time that my parents, grandparents, six siblings, and I were all in the same place at the same time for a holiday together.

Traci Taylor

Easter of 2011 was special because my grandparents, who lived many states away were visiting and it was a rare treat to spend a holiday with them as an adult (we always shared holidays together as kids). I drove up from near Philly and we had a really nice time together as a family and that time together is one I'll never forget, not only because we were all together, but because of Pop's chop suey.

I know this might seem sexist in today's world, but my great-grandpa stumbled on a chop suey recipe some 60 plus years ago and decided it sounded easy enough that he could make it and he did and the recipe became a way for the men to cook for the kids when their wives weren't able to. The recipe has been tweaked through the years and handed down to all of the men in my family.

Traci Taylor

By the time I was thirty and still unmarried, I wondered if I would ever have someone to make Pop's chop suey for me. So, I set out to try to recreate the recipe myself because gosh darn it, I wasn't going to be denied Pop's chop suey.

I kept the fact that I'd pretty much figured out Pop's recipe a secret for nearly a decade but last year, when it became apparent that Pop didn't have much time left, I fessed up and told him what I'd figured out. Pop was impressed and in turn, sent me his top secret recipe and asked me to share it with my husband. Jay and I were married for six years before my grandpa died last fall and they only met once. Pop's rule was that the recipe had to be taught to the person it was being handed down to and since chop suey making wasn't on the agenda when he met my husband, Jay was never taught.

Traci Taylor

My Pop died on November 1, 2020 and his death has emotionally impacted me in huge ways. As I sit here typing this, I think all of the holidays I missed out on spending with him because I was too concerned about taking time off from my job. And now, while I'll get to walk with Pop again one day in heaven, I will never share another Easter here on earth with him or have another opportunity for him to lovingly make me his special chop suey.

Easter will be different this year for a variety of reasons but perhaps the biggest is that my incredible husband suggested we break away from the way we've traditionally celebrated Easter and start our own tradition. So this year, we won't be sitting around the table eating ham and candied yams. We'll be sitting around the table eating Pop's chop suey, a dish my husband and I will make together with the help of our son. And, I will remember the last Easter shared with my Pop and from this day forward, whenever Easter rolls around, I will share Pop's special dish and my special stories of him with whoever is sitting at my table.

                                Jessie Lee Vail 
                     July 28, 1935 to November 1, 2020

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