Water droplets coated everything outside my house today. During my walk around the perimeter of our land, their tiny glistening bodies dripped steadily off the trees in the heavy air. Rain was never far off, and the view across the road into the fields beyond seemed out of focus in the foggy mist of a damp November day. Water puddled in the driveway ruts. It wasn’t bitterly cold, but in that sort of late autumn sogginess, a chill sticks to your bones with determination.
My community grieves this week after the loss of a devoted mother and spouse, a dear friend to many, a woman with a fierce commitment to her values. My own grandmother died a few months ago, and though it wasn’t unexpected, there’s an empty space in my life where her physical energy used to be. A good friend said goodbye to her father after months and months of caregiving, and a few weeks later, her mother-in-law. Then another friend died, unexpectedly. She recently told me that she feels numb from all the losses that keep stacking up.
Loss, especially a physical death, feels shocking, even if you know it’s coming. Especially if you don’t. It takes your breath away. It can leave you feeling everything and nothing at the same time.
The news media shares story after story about those who have died of COVID-19. College students give up coming home for the holidays. More schools shut down in-person learning. Women give notice at jobs they love to take care of things at home. Wildfires still smolder in the west after burning whole communities to the ground. Even minor calamities seem more raw in a year filled with so many hard things, a year when division seems to define too much of how we operate.
There are puddles of loss everywhere. It’s the one thing we all have in common, whether small (cancelling holiday gatherings, not getting the haircut/massage, accepting distance learning) or more significant (losing a job, a house, or a loved one). It can make everything else seem out of focus. It sticks to your bones with the heaviness of a steady rain. In a pandemic, it can feel constant.
Later in the afternoon, I opened the mailbox, hoping to find a few things I’ve been waiting for, but all I fished out was a fundraising letter from The Sun Magazine. I almost threw it in the wood stove before opening it, but I didn’t. Instead I read what founder Sy Safranky had to say, and I’m glad I did, because he closed his letter with this:
“…when the weight of the suffering in the world feels like too heavy a burden–this world that’s so impossibly beautiful and unbelievably sad–I remember the advice of Edmond Burke. “Never despair,” he said. “But if you do, work on in despair.”
The world may be both incredibly beautiful and terribly sad, but our work in it continues. I can only hope that by fully grieving the unbelievably sad we add another layer of depth to the impossibly beautiful.Tweet
I’ll keep working if you do.