My husband, Dan, and I went out to the grocery store yesterday afternoon for a few items. We passed a small tent as we were walking in that contained some bedraggled looking annuals and a few random planters. What caught our eye, however, were vegetable and herb plants.
Weary, worn and sad, as the old hymn goes, they looked like the Charlie Brown Christmas trees of garden fare. At fifty cents for a flat of four, Dan and I felt non-anxious about the prospect of taking one home to see what we could do to revive a single flat of brussels sprouts. We transplanted them when we returned home, made dinner, and settled in to watch a really bad romantic comedy.
This morning I went out on the back deck to prepare for Daily Prayer via Facebook Live on our presbytery’s Facebook page, and noticed the new addition to our container gardens, four vivid green brussels sprouts plants, standing tall-ish and looking positively healthy. It felt like a small sign.
You see, like so many, I’m discovering that I’m at a place where I’m sad much of the day, vaguely tuckered out and not my usual hopeful self. I am weary, worn and sad. I think I have a case of coronavirus grief.
My daily thoughts wander in the direction of all that’s been lost and missed in this season, now going on three months, with more months predicted. The number of deaths is certainly a part of the grief, but it’s also about a loss of safety, security, and familiar routine. I’m sad when I think about milestones in people’s lives that have been missed for children, youth and adults. I’m really sad when I consider the isolation of these months for persons who are or have been hospitalized, as well as those who struggle with isolation even short-term. I’m so angry that our nation continues to be plagued by systemic racism, violence, partisan politics robbing us of the ability to hear the gospel as a promise and a mandate.
Then I started to feel bad about feeling bad. There are so many people with better reasons to feel grief. Why am I not more resilient? Why can’t I get this resolved, like the psalmist, and end up in a better frame of mind after a lament? I feel like I am in the quicksand of lament.
Tonight I was preparing dinner and used a colander to rinse off some cauliflower for dinner. I remembered the image that a friend who was an oncology and pediatric ICU chaplain once told me was her coping tool for sadness and grief. “I think of myself as being a sieve rather than sponge.” It’s such a great image. It allows for feeling the reality of grief, of allowing sadness to come, knowing that at some point, it will flow through, move on, get going.
In the coming weeks more of our congregations will return to worship. We will be so very glad to be together again, even with safety measures in place for however long they’re needed. It will be good, and I hope congregations will take a little time to acknowledge all that has happened, and is still happening, and to speak of those who are missing or cannot yet safely return. It will be important take some time to be with those feelings of grief and sadness. That’s not maudlin or wallowing. It’s proven to be healthier to acknowledge grief instead of ignoring it. We can help each other to be sieves and not sponges.
And I feel sure that a prayer that remembers, a remark that honors what’s been lost will be like watering plants that have gotten so dry, but can be revived with just a little love and care.