In this season of reflection and gratitude, I am reminded of what my son and I witnessed seven weeks into the pandemic in May 2020. I offer it again now. May it help us to remember how deeply connected and beloved we all are.
I grew up in the Catholic Church, but not in the ways you’d imagine. It’s true I wore my special Sunday dress to Mass, the one with the flowers and the ribbon tied in the back. I sat in the pew next to my parents.
This afternoon I sit on a swing, listening to the cicadas sing. Sunlight streams through the treetops. My son is whizzing past me, his legs pumping hard. Orange shorts and bright purple tank top fly back and forth. A sense of peace washes over me. I am enough. My son is enough. Right here, right now, in the middle of a seemingly endless global pandemic, this moment is enough.
It’s funny how a summer can change you. In June, I remember thinking that we had turned the corner on the pandemic. Here it is mid-August and I am wondering if the pandemic will ever end. This time last year felt just as daunting, and the tiniest of red geraniums stirred new hope in me. I offer this story again, praying that grace finds you wherever you are and carries you forward.
Where do we go from here? That is the question on my heart as we turn the corner on the pandemic. We have survived something of significance together. It’s going to take some time to figure out what we carry with us and what we leave behind. In this in-between space, I offer you this story from years ago as a gentle reminder that the essence of who we are (even after 15 months of isolation, hand sanitizer, and loss) is still with us.
Years ago, I wrote the prayers of the faithful for Mother’s Day. It is a lay ministry, crafting the petitions sent forth by over 3,000 people on Sunday mornings at church. We prayed for everyone who is a mother, everyone who aches to be a mother, and everyone who declined the role or had it declined for them. It is a day of beauty and of pain. That same May, as I waited for my adoption to finalize, I spent Mother’s Day at a Haitian celebration.
I was 43 miles into my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage when the pain surfaced. Not from the typical blisters or corns. Nor the pulled muscles or sunburn. I’m walking a virtual 480-mile pilgrimage across the northern part of Spain (via an app on my phone). I’d been averaging around three miles, sometimes five, each week. I was finally gaining some momentum when an overwhelming sense of anger became my most unwelcomed companion.
No doubt, it has been a year. 365 days of uncertainty, death tolls, variants, vaccines, and prayerfully hope. I was curious to know what I wrote last spring when we assumed the pandemic might only last a few months at best. I offer my words again in honor of the one-year anniversary. They seem as timely now as they did then.
I started walking the Camino de Santiago on New Year’s Day. Known as a pilgrimage across Spain, the Camino dates back to the eighth century. Millions upon millions of people of every faith, hue, and nationality, have hiked the month-long (or longer) trek to the city of Santiago de Compostela where St. James the Apostle is reportedly buried. It is considered a sacred journey in search of meaning and transformation. It could not be more timely on the heels of 2020.
We watched as red and black balloons drifted up slowly into the winter sky and then out of sight. Gone. Like my friend’s husband of 39 years whose memorial my son and I were attending. Gathered in masks on a cold December afternoon, we stood in the quiet of the field, eyes lifted, honoring him. A grandfather, a deacon in the church, a dad. Gone, gone, gone. Late that night, and many others that follow, I lie down on my living room floor. I like to feel the solidness of the hardwood beneath me. It grounds my prayers, especially in this bittersweet holiday season.