At my door, the leaves are falling, the cold, wild winds will come. I still miss someone… I find a darkened corner because I still miss someone…
— Johnny Cash.
At 2:48 this morning, I came to a decision. Before getting up and adding Morgan’s favorite Star Wars comforter to the bed because I was cold then having a glass of milk, I decided that this year I will put up a Christmas tree. I have not done this yet, but I did make a choice. It’s tiny and inconsequential, but it is mine for now. For a reason I cannot explain, the idea of decorating a tree gives me peace. Last year there was no tree. Then, I was staying with a dear friend, in shock, exhausted and fearing for the future. This year, the holidays bring something else:. Another kind of grief that is both personal and collective and a sense of loss that touches every one of us in unspeakable ways. We are working our way through wild and scary darkness.
One of my friends, Hope, refers to grief as a wilderness. This makes sense to me. Wilderness lands are a combination of isolation, beauty, danger, potential, deep connection, risk, and renewal. Wilderness can be a place of solace. Wilderness is also scary and dangerous. COVID-19 has brought all of us to this wilderness. There is not one soul whose life has not been touched or altered. We have all lost. We all miss someone. We all miss each other. All of us know someone who is vulnerable. Many of us are vulnerable. All of us are tired. All of us are scared. This is an unknown place, a place of wild and weird things, a place of loss, a place of change, a place of pain. Grief can also be a place of rebirth, a place of deepening. Grief can be a place for love to grow and live.
The hard part, the part where there are just are no clear answers, is: How do we navigate this wilderness, which has become a part of all of us. How do we support one another? What do we share? How do we uplift each other? We re amidst a messiness that, despite all efforts to control, is often beyond our control.
Where does that leave us?
My little piece of the grief wilderness has given me at least two things. The first is the people around me — my friends, and my Vista family are good and kind people. It does not matter that they can all be stubborn or weird at times. They are all special human beings who are doing the best they can every day. It is an honor and a gift to have them in my life.
The second is that I still find magic in the world: flowers, gardens, cats, an elder drawing on her own for the first time, knowing people who are in love, the sunsets from my back yard, and learning to make a really good caldo de res. This magic is a gift. I spent Thursday evening on Zoom with a friend talking about family, faith, and lighting the first candle of Hanukkah. We sang in Hebrew and sang the old gospel songs I grew up with. We talked about light in the darkness. That day was filled with calls and texts from friends who all shared life as Morgan’s sister with me. This day was filled with light in the darkness and with family.
We are all spending the holidays in a wilderness. There is danger here. There is pain here. There is fear here. There are also gifts. I, for one, am thankful for the gifts.
But… at my door, the leaves are falling, the cold, wild winds will come, I still miss someone… I find a darkened corner because I still miss someone.