It is Derby week in Louisville, usually a festive time of parties and parades and people-watching. But the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans for us. As I write these words for my beloved Highland Baptist community, I wonder how each of us is faring in this strange new reality. For me, the tears flow often as I watch reports of those dying without their loved ones present, while connecting with friends on Zoom brings healing laughter and levity. As someone astutely reminded us this week on Facebook, we are not all in the same boat.
I’m finding it helpful to name sorrows and joys as I navigate my way through this disorienting time. Some sorrows:
- To date, total deaths in Kentucky: 205. Total deaths in the US: a staggering 55,439.
- Worldwide death total: more than 208,000.
- Friends who have lost their jobs for the foreseeable future.
- Not being able to celebrate milestones together: graduations, new homes, births, birthdays, even deaths.
- Social distancing: not being able to touch those we love and hold dear.
- Stories from healthcare workers describing the suffering of their patients and families.
- A stunningly beautiful springtime in Kentucky. Riding a bike in said springtime.
- People singing/dancing/making music/reading stories on Facebook.
- Reassuring Gov. Andy Beshear updates.
- Hilarious Leslie Jordan updates.
- Small business owners doing their best for their employees.
- Lift Up Louisville song created by a beautifully wide array of Louisville musicians.
- Zoom meetings with friends to drink wine and play trivia.
- Daily devotions with Highland Baptist Church staff and Zoom meetings with the Nomads Bible Study Class.
For us, probably the most painful part of this pandemic has been having the best possible news to share about our son and daughter-in-law’s adoption journey but only being able to celebrate and prepare in mostly virtual ways. We long for the day we can do this with actual, in-the-flesh bear hugs, embraces, baby showers and laughter.
Arlette Tinsley shared a poem last year that I found helpful then and especially now, titled “Instructions on Not Giving Up.” It’s written by Ada Limón and is about the leaves that form after all the brilliant crabapple and cherry blossoms have fallen to the ground. Here’s the last portion:
“Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.”
Whatever winter (COVID-19?) does to us, may we open our hands to receive life as it comes, “continuous living” with all of its joys and sorrows.