For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die. . . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn . . . Ecclesiastes 3:1-2,4
This past week our nation surpassed the 100,000 mark of persons who have died from the COVID-19 pandemic. This morning I listened to a New York Times podcast that marked this awful milestone by sharing the names – and a little of the story – of 100 of those individuals. I was moved by this memorial effort.
It is important that we remember and mourn these lives. We may say, I don’t know them, how can I grieve? To which I would say, you likely do know someone who has suffered a loss to COVID-19. Our congregation mourns the loss of two of our members to date. Our community has counted thirty-four deaths due to the virus. In the future both of these numbers may rise.
Others have lost income, jobs, and security. Many are living with a heightened sense of anxiety and have lost innocence, independence, and peace of mind.
Loss has a way of adding up, over time. Loss not acknowledged or mourned can overwhelm us as its toll accumulates within our person. If not processed, it will come out as anger, frustration, stress, or surface in other ways.
My own temptation is to press on, push down those feelings of loss, and not dwell on the bad news. But that only works for a little while. Each day something eventually reminds me that we are not in a normal time. There are visual cues everywhere, auditory ones as well. The loss is often palpable.
So, despite my first thought to not listen to today’s The Daily podcast, given its topic; I’m glad that I did. It gave me permission to sit for a moment with the reality of those 100 lives, representing over 100,000 lives and over three times that world-wide.
It helped me process some of what I’ve been feeling. It interrupted my day and my avoidance, pulling me back to simple faith amidst the uncertainty of life. Faith, that now and in the end . . . . “all shall be well, and all shall be well” (a quote attributed to Julian of Norwhich which comes out of her arguing with God regarding the presence of suffering and death in the world).
Grief processed, mourning permitted, loss acknowledged, and – yes – prayer argued helps reset our mental outlook and reorient us under the care of the Good Shepherd, whom we follow even through death’s dark valley.