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By DIANE BULLER

We bought the house, and the rock came with it. Our first house.

Eleven years later, we moved across town for more house and less yard.

A sentimentalist, I lamented the loss of a slice of life left behind. The cherry tree where my kiddos climbed a ladder to pick cherries for my annual cherry pie had to stay.

Ah ... but I could take the rock from our yard. I'm neither a rock collector nor rock lover, but tradition and symbols? That's a different story.

At my request, my husband hauled it to its new front yard before we sold the other house. Relocated, it guarded our new home like the old. Keeping company with the red and pink tulips and jonquils in the front yard, it sat unmoved.

Until we decided to do a bit of landscaping several summers later. Bulbs transferred to the backyard, and he moved the rock again, this time a few feet to the south. A little closer to the front porch, it cozied up to a tree instead of flowers.

A simple charcoal-colored landscaping rock. Estimated value: a carryout pizza. Size: 18 inches in diameter. Approximate weight: 20 pounds.

If you pulled in the drive, you wouldn't even notice it. No one ever complimented us on our rock. I forgot about it.

Until an August morning when I went for a bike ride. Admiring the lawns and late summer flowers in the subdivision, I braked. "The rock! It's gone! Someone stole my rock!" I said out loud.

My perfect summer morning vanished. For a day or two, I'd sensed something different getting the mail and driving into the garage. Or was it a week or two? I called the husband at work. "Who takes a rock?" I pressed him for an answer.

Irritation shifted to annoyance to perplexity. The daunting question lingered. Why? Not the who, what, when, where or even the how. But why? Why steal an insignificant landscaping rock?

Summer shifted to fall. No "I'm sorry" note in my mailbox. A local florist didn't deliver a lovely arrangement to my door from an anonymous gifter. (Yes, that happened to me once.) Not that I was expecting either one.

I figured it was another unsolvable mystery for my lifetime. What happened to my preschool son's cowboy outfit with matching chaps and vest? Where was that house key I placed on a shelf when I lived in a different city? How about the bright yellow child's swing that went "awol" from the garage over two decades ago? All fell in the "strange mysteries and disappearances" category.

The following Lenten season, I placed a simple white cardboard cross in my front yard (eastercross.org).

On Easter Sunday morning, I turned the 2-foot cross around. Preprinted words read "He is risen."

After church and family dinner, I strolled to the curb and retrieved the newspaper. That's when I saw the small pinkish-purplish flower at the base of the cross.

Who placed the flower there? Again ... the who? A couple steps closer, I realized I'd unintentionally placed the cross in the same spot where the rock had been.

Christians across the world celebrate this season of Easter. Sealed with a massive rock, the garden tomb couldn't contain the body of the crucified Christ. A Roman security force standing guard shook paralyzed with fear. Christ's resurrected body conquered death and darkness.

The psalmist tells us our hope comes from God. He is our mighty rock and refuge. I like to think that the person who wanted my landscaping rock is the same person who placed the flower at the bottom of the cardboard cross. The cross, the place where we all can find redemption. That's the simple Easter message dressed in its finest.

Diane Buller is an author and retired teacher who lives in Champaign. She loves reading, writing and listening to others' stories.