The world has been falling apart. In New York, Christian Cooper asked a woman to put a leash on her dog. She, instead, wielded her only weapon – her white privilege- and called the police. In Minneapolis, George Floyd was pinned under the knee of a white officer so long, he eventually died from his crush injuries. Here in Ontario, a damning report from our Canadian Military spells out the long-neglected crisis happening in our Long Term Health Care facilities. The pandemic rages on, with the province now extending our emergency orders until June 9th, as our neighbours to the south are buckling under the weight of the extreme COVID-19 storm cloud that has ravaged cities, and rural communities; the death toll edging 90 000 people.
And while we sit in our homes, our screens flashing with headlines, and viral photos, and trending hashtags, we each wage our own battles to claw back to some sort of normalcy inside our own lives.
Our kids adjusting to online learning. Our kids adjusting to one another’s insistent company. Bouncing from frost warnings one week, to heat waves the second. Cancelled graduation ceremonies. Summer plans altered. Filling pool water instead of packing for a cottage getaway. Standing in masks on the front lawn, unable to hug the ones you love the most. Fearful of a second wave. Fearful a vaccination may never come, and what happens when it’s September and things are not – in fact – going to go back to the “way it was”. Our kids wondering if they’ll see their friends in the fall, and will they get to play hockey, and what do you mean Mom and Dad that you just don’t know?
And also inside these four walls the one part of life that refuses to change, alter, or modify.
In the depths of the pandemic despair in this house, having to lean into grief has been our hardest test to date. Kid C’s Grandfather passed just over a week ago, and this weekend, she had to pay her respects, say her goodbyes, while being unable to hug and squeeze those grieving around her. How do you explain death and explain mortality, while explaining the enormous gravity of current global crisis preventing you from grieving as perhaps you would have otherwise?
I’m a proponent of leaning into your feelings. I’m an advocate of expelling even your angriest. I encouraged Kid C to write it down, yell it out, cry it out, and give herself the permission to be mad at it all. Be mad that Grandpa is gone. Be mad that you couldn’t have a proper funeral. Be mad that you couldn’t hug all of your cousins at the graveside. Be mad. It’s okay to be mad.
And then give yourself permission to be thankful. And grateful. For the times Grandpa hoisted you up into the cab of one of his big trucks. For the moments you and he visited the kittens in the barn. For the after school hours you spent together waiting for Daddy to pick you up and take you home. For birthdays he attended, for the gentleness of his words, the kindness of his tone, the Church services you went to together. The hugs, the love, and the memories of his spirit that will live long into your memories. And be okay with being grateful you had him in your life for as long as you did. That’s the greatest gift of all.
As Kid C comes to terms with the pendulum of emotion that takes her swinging from sadness to acceptance, this has become another ripple in the pandemic ocean of complications. She was not afforded meaningful mourning. And in the weeks from now (months? a year?) when the Erb family is permitted to host the Celebration of Life this patriarch so richly deserves, we’ll rip open this emotional wound for Kid C and pray the work we’ve done today works as a foundation to revisit her grief in the future. That she’ll be able to recognize her feelings, and process them. Lean into how she’s feeling, give herself the opportunity to be sad, or mad, or grateful, or any other great kaleidoscope of emotion that threatens to tackle her when the time comes to say goodbye again.
Inside your own corner of the universe, I know you’re waging your own wars against this “new normal”. You’re quantifying against the quality of what life looks like today. And maybe you’re living alone. And maybe you’re living with four home-schooled kids of varying age and of varying needs. Maybe you’re a single parent. Maybe you’re a Senior living on your own. Maybe you’re in essential services. Maybe you’re on the front lines. My sentiment is go with kindness. In what you see online, in how you interact with the person next to you at the store. To the person wearing a mask. To the person who chooses not to. To the person with a shopping cart that could fill two freezers. To the person who chose to hold up in their cottage till this passes. To the person who persistently messages you because they’re desperately seeking human interaction.
Go with kindness. It’s all we have left.
As we venture into month three of slowing down, go with kindness. There’s a story behind every door of every home grappling with how to handle this next chapter of uncertainty.
The drying roses from Grandpa’s funeral will serve two purposes. A reminder of him, and all he meant to my youngest. And a time she dealt with death without the sanctuary of human closeness.
Go with kindness.
— c ☆