Twenty eight years ago, at just about this time, I was out in the garage looking for something when I came across some of Terrie’s things. She had died that January and I was still struggling with her loss. It triggered what was a persistent questioning and struggle for me at that time. Life was not supposed to be like this. Why did she have to suffer with and die of cancer? Why do I have to go through this? The grief group that I was a part of helped me to navigate through this pain and suffering. We were a diverse group of individuals of similar ages, different backgrounds, different faiths or none at all. Although the suffering we experienced was not equally distributed, in this community the one thing that that we all had in common, however, was the loss of a spouse. We were able to remind each other that we were not the only broken hearted people in the world and the pain of loss so present in our lives was not ours alone. As I looked into the box I found some of the crafts Terrie had made. There were hair bows and other things she had made that helped her to rediscover the beauty in the world and in her own life in the midst of incredible struggle with cancer over which she had no control. In the midst of her own suffering she found a way to find joy and beauty. She found a way to share that joy and beauty with others around her.
I find that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shelter in place restrictions bring back some of those same feelings. Why do so many have to suffer with and die of as a result of this virus? Why do I have to go through this isolation and being closed off from so many of the things that I find life giving? The gentle reminder from so many years ago returns as well: We are not the only broken hearted people in the world and the pain of loss so present in our lives is not ours alone.
The gospel today calls out to remind us of the presence of the Spirit. “You know the Spirit, because the Spirit remains with you, and will be in you.” The fact is that hardly anything in life turns out the way we expected it to, and we are so often ready to write life off as too difficult and retreat. But we all must be willing to take a moment to recognize the presence of the Spirit that remains with and in us. Stretch to find the beauty that surrounds us in the midst of suffering and struggle. This may be in simple things like finding some rocks and painting them and adding our own design; perhaps it’s playing a musical instrument; maybe it is spending some time in prayerful silence and deep listening. It doesn’t matter that we lack any artistic talent, musical ability, or even a sense of deep spirituality. It is a willingness to be open to the spirit within.