Before “Jubilada” (another post that is begging to be written) spills out, I must address the reality of loss. I follow the example set by our new President who chose to recognize, honor and cry over the losses of 2020 before the festival of Inauguration Day. On the evening of January 19th, he led us in ceremony beside the reflecting pool, remembering the 400,000+ persons we have lost to COVID. I was moved to tears. The next morning, after he was sworn in, President Biden, crossed himself as he and Vice President Harris laid a wreathe at the tomb of the unknown soldier, acknowledging the pain of those whose loved ones died in combat. Biden knows personal loss, having buried his parents, his first wife and two of his children. He knows, and said as much, that to heal, we must grieve no matter how much it hurts. Collective grief can be especially restorative. We are all in this together, after all.
I startle when someone asks if I know people who have had COVID. I try not to tighten in judgment as I consider, “Don’t we all?” The list is long and includes my aunt, my sister, my cousin who was hospitalized, family friends who have died.
I’ve almost become accustomed to a bevy of pandemic-related losses—no travel, no restaurants, so little touch, no holding babies or attending funerals. What I lament most though is Mom’s passing memory. I miss Rob’s bladder and how his body once functioned. I too am aging with several new ailments in this crazy year: vertigo, a ganglion cyst, hip bursitis plus more arthritis.
There is no denying our collective sins—institutional racism and violence. Much has been laid bare. We brace for more violence; armed guards stand ready.
Yes, at times I weep.
And I soothe myself as I name the losses. My heart opens to the sorrows of others. I begin to rock slightly and hum. Ever so gradually I summon the courage to hope again, finally knowing, in the words of Richard Wagamese (Embers, 2016):
“You can’t test courage timidly. You have to run through the fire, arms waving, legs pumping and heart beating wildly with the effort of reclaiming something vital, lost, laid aside or just plain forgotten. When you do that, you discover that we shine most brightly in community, the whole bedraggled, worn, frayed and tattered lot of us, bound together forever by a shared courage, a family forged in the heat of earnest struggle.”