This is a story about the human spirit, and the power of faith. It is the remarkable story of a woman named Sandy Brown, who in the course of three days last month, lost her husband and then her twenty-year-old son to Covid-19.
The details of how things transpired do not need to be re-written here as Francis X. Donnelly deftly tells that harrowing nightmare of reality in the Detroit News. What is worth delving into, however, is the psyche and mysterious strength of Sandy Brown.
Unless you have encountered such a tragedy, it is incredibly difficult to comprehend the grief that comes with losing all of your immediate family members simultaneously. Those of us with a great imagination may be able to consider the agony of losing a spouse or child. But losing both? At the same time?
Even if we can relate to such a loss, chances are that while thinking about it, we inadvertently make an assumption that our friends and family will be there to support us and hold us. After all, that is how people grieve. We gather with our loved ones, holding each other tightly and finding solace in the embrace of another human being. But the Coronavirus has made a mockery of grief, and created an isolation unlike anything we have ever known.
Sandy Brown is not near her husband or son when they pass away. They both die alone in sterile hospital rooms while Sandy sequesters in her home. And, when it comes time to grieve, Sandy is forced to do so alone.
Imagine neighbors stopping by to leave food or flowers on your doorstep. Maybe you have a screen door, as Sandy does. You place your hand on the glass while the person on the other side does the same. But there is no touching, there is no physical contact. Eventually Sandy must close the door and endure the agony of her broken heart in solitude.
To grieve the loss of your family completely on your own, without anyone, is just…there are no words. 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.
This tender moment of touching our compassionate heart is what allows us to understand how Sandy endured.
In the midst of her solitary hell of confinement, alone with her grief, Sandy awakened to a sense that we are not alone. That we are never completely alone. She 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, yet 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 strength Sandy is experiencing comes from something other than fortitude.
It is a bigger power, a higher spirit, something of biblical proportion, and though I call it faith, the name does not matter. What matters is the common human experience of knowing with absolute certainty that there is more to this game than we realize.
This is what faith is all about. Faith has nothing to do with religion. There are many humanists and atheists who have a deep sense of faith. We all have it. Even if we lack the ability to accurately describe the location from which this source of strength manifests, we know it exists. We feel it in the fiber of our being, and that makes faith as real as anything else in this world.
For thousands of years, amidst the inevitable sorrows of life, humans have continually discovered an inner strength that allows us to persevere. Faith is our one common truth. Regardless of how we consider religion or god, we all share the capacity for strength and faith.
Acknowledging this perspective about our common faith allows us to see that we are all connected. And, in times like these, accepting and embracing our universal inter-connectedness is a perspective worth sharing.