The other day I wrote about the Covid-19 opportunity. How despite the sadness, fear and anxiety we all share, we can also choose to acknowledge the opportunity we have to savor the gift of time. Time to spend with our families or just to read a few good books. But I was wrong. Not all of us have time. Today, I came across a news headline that read, “Unimaginable Pain.” Sensing this was important to bring into my consciousness, I continued to read the full story, and now that I have finished it and dwelled on it for several hours, I feel compelled to write just a few more words about a different opportunity we have.
Looking back, I see my words from the previous post alluded to the grief lurking amongst us, but that soft touch is no longer enough. We must stop in our tracks, take a deep breath, and attempt to consider the plight of our fellow human being, Sandy Brown. In the course of three days last week Sandy lost her husband and then her twenty-year-old son. The story does not need to be re-written here as Francis X. Donnelly deftly tells this harrowing nightmare of reality in the Detroit News. What is worth delving into, however, is the psyche and human spirit of Sandy Brown.
No matter how great an imagination any of us may have, it is incredibly difficult to truly comprehend the level of grief that comes with losing all of your immediate family members without anyone to lean on. We may be able to consider the horror of losing a child or husband, but both? At the same time? And, if we can find a way to relate to such a loss, when thinking about what that looks and feels like, we inadvertently make an assumption that our friends and family will be there to support us and hold us. After all, that is how humans grieve. We gather with those we love and pay tribute to those who are gone. We hold each other tightly and find solace in the embrace of another. But to grieve in solitude, without anyone, without even the ability to be next to your child as he dies, is just…there are no words. When I think about Sandy in those moments, I envision a woman who is literally gripping the air trying to manifest the physical presence of another human to hold on to for support, for love.
The isolation that comes with Coronavirus takes grieving to a new dimension. Imagine your neighbors stopping by and leaving food or flowers on your doorstep. Maybe you have a screen door, as Sandy does, so you can place your hand on the glass and the person on the other side can do the same. But you can’t touch. There is no physical contact and eventually Sandy must close the door and face her state of mind and broken heart completely alone in her house. If you slow yourself down, way down, and try to touch the depths of Sandy’s pain and loneliness, it is impossible not to have tears running down your face. And it is precisely at this tender moment of touching our compassionate heart that we come to understand how Sandy endured. In the darkest moments of despair resides the X factor of our lives. Right smack in the middle of this solitary hell of confinement, alone with our grief, what awakens is a sense that we are not alone. That we are never completely alone. Sandy expresses it in this way…
“Medical science says I should be traumatized. I had a traumatic experience twice. I should be banging my head against the wall. But God said no. I’m standing here in the strength of the lord, not strength of my own. God has got me.”
There was no family to hold Sandy, but she is still standing. How can anyone deny the presence of God in Sandy’s life? And even if the word God throws you, surely, we can agree that the love and strength Sandy is experiencing comes from something other than fortitude. It is a bigger power, a higher spirit, something of biblical proportion, and the name of it does not matter. It is the human experience of knowing with absolute certainty that there is more to this game than we realize. That is faith. Even without the ability to accurately describe the location from which this source manifests, we know it exists, and that makes it as real as anything else in this world. This is what matters. To feel in the fiber of our being that there is something greater than our own existence. This is what causes faith to persevere, and to acknowledge the beautiful mystery and connectivity of faith is another opportunity we all share at this moment.