Thursday, October 08, 2020

2020 hits differently

 I got an e-mail today from the United Church of Christ (Disciples are sort of loosely affiliated with them, and I subscribe to one of their e-mail devotionals).

They are holding a virtual "All Saints" service this year at the end of the month.

I read that, and had to stare into the distance for a few minutes. I hadn't even THOUGHT about All Saints' Day. 

(In my tradition, this is the day we remember/celebrate the lives of/mourn those who died in the past year)

Two big thoughts:

1. Brought up a memory of last year, of how I had unthinkingly scheduled myself as one of the Elders praying at the table that day. Remember that it had been a bare three months since my dad had died and I was still really struggling - also losing several friends that fall. I got up to the table and started the prayer and....just couldn't. I started crying. And while it was no harm - everyone understood and came and commiserated with me after the service - still, it's something I won't forget soon.

2. This year hits differently. I was talking with  my newest colleague about this the other day - we were talking about how everything is different and no one knows what to do. And I brought up mourning my dad and she nodded because she recently lost a grandparent, and she noted, "In those cases there are other people who have been there before, and they can kind of support you through it, and you can look at them and see that there's an other side to your grief, but in one's been here before, at least no one alive right now*, and we don't know how to deal with this"

And she's right. I think we are all dealing with some kind of collective mourning right now, and while part of my brain clamps down, childlike, and goes "NO. NO ALL SAINTS THIS YEAR. NO REMINDERS." I also recognize that it's  probably going to be important. There's sort of the....cosmic psychic damage a lot of people have taken. I guess some people feel it less than others? I don't know.

(*And yes, I know, HIV/AIDS but neither of us belong to the communities hardest hit by that, and it's somehow not the same to me when it's a disease you could literally get from going to your job or winding up unluckily sitting next to someone who is infective on a bus)

I don't know. I suspect if I wind up at the table it will be hard again this year (we are down to having one elder pray; better for distancing, and instead of passing trays we have the little pre-sealed wafer-and-juice combo that were sold - in the before-times - for people to use in homebound eldering; my mom knew exactly what I was referring to because that was how her church did it - both when she was serving as an elder and then when it was brought to her and my father when he could no longer leave the house. 

(Often, it seems to me, there are strange "full circle" elements to things - the idea that my parents once served as Elders bringing communion to people either at home or, more commonly, in a care facility, and then when my dad's arthritis and scoliosis and what was probably COPD got so bad he couldn't go to church, he got it brought to him)

I don't know. I cycle wildly emotionally these days, between anger and sadness and wondering if I'll ever be able to have a nice, simple, casual, non-masked-and-distanced interaction with another human and alternatively, trying to cosmically understand it all, to think about that whole host of souls we have lost....I was so involved in Halloween decorating and trying to do "cute vintage style Halloween" that I forgot the memento mori part of it. And I confess, I want no more memento  of mori, not my own "remember some day you too will die," not reminders of all the people I have lost in recent years. (And in some ways? The separation from some people feels like a death - there are some fellow congregants I have not seen since March because they are staying strictly at home - a couple people with immune disorders or who are on chemo)

I think perhaps I had never had a close enough experience of death before last summer? That I was able to maintain some kind of childlike denial of it all? And then, in 2019, it all hit so hard and so fast and I admit some days it's hard for me to fully enter into the enjoyment of things because, yes, I do have the memento mori in my brain. And I wonder, how to people sit comfortably with it? I'm not there yet. I think that's also my rage and despair at not being able to do some things this year - that fundamentally, a whole year or more of my life will be wasted and gone, I will be that much closer to the grave, and I feel I have done nothing at all of lasting value, that I haven't - paid for? is not quite the right phrase - my time here. And it doesn't help that I've had a lot of quiet alone evenings with little to distract me, so the reminder gets bigger and hairier and sits there breathing its hot breath on me, and there's really nowhere I can go to escape it. 

So yeah. Not sure how I'll make it through All Saints Sunday. I'm hoping beyond hope our new minister gets here earlier than the 30-days-from-this-past-Sunday as planned and there will be the change and awkwardness of learning to know a new person....that might help.

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