“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty,” said Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers. “Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” I feel this speaks to our journey in the world today — as well as my journey through the dark persistence of grief. Today, I am grateful for even the most minuscule flecks of glitter.
Trying to make sense of this messy miasma, “love in the time of Corona,” as I’ve termed it, I had an epiphany. I realized I have been living in isolation for months — quarantining myself emotionally, spiritually and physically in a dank and dreary cave called grief. For the past year and a half, I have been hibernating, encased in a dimly lit reality not of my choosing. In fact, it’s a confederacy of losses that looms in every moment — my amazing son Elliot, both my parents, my treasured mentor, an exhausting 8-year relationship, several battles for justice, and the list goes on. Sinking under the weight of it all, I finally landed in the inertia pit.
Since Aug. 5, 2018, when Elliot left the earth so suddenly and violently, my intersections with humanity have been infrequent, and alas, when I have engaged, it has required every ounce of energy I could muster. Still. Sad. Stymied. And yet, as much as I have resisted them, I am certain that these occasional human connections have kept me alive. A heartfelt ping from a sweet greeting card or a Facebook message from a faraway friend have rescued me from the deepest abysses of numbness. I have subsisted in a dystopian environment for months. I rearranged my life to work from home by taking a job with a company based in Atlanta. As the firm implodes into its own maelstrom of bankruptcy and confusion, my interactions there have been limited, as well. However, though I am practiced at this kind of separation, I am profoundly unsettled.
The dire predictions and mounting closures feel like a pall of doom folding into the gaps of our lives, slowly and steadily suffocating us. It’s not fear of catching the disease that troubles me most. It’s the fear of our fraying social fabric. In recent days, I have become keenly aware that my brittle inner being is now mirrored by the precariousness of the world surrounding me. There is certain terror in that. There is nowhere to go, nowhere to feel safe. Life, all of it, is so very fragile. Perhaps, that’s the essential lesson. Stability is an illusion, as much as it is manipulated, orchestrated, packaged and spun. Who can you trust? Why weren’t we better prepared? Who knew what and when? Was there biohazard release from a research lab in Wuhan? Was it on purpose or an accident? With fake news, Trump’s arrogant incompetence, the Russian agenda, data mining, Big Pharma, The Family, Fox News, CNN, and even MSNBC, where do we turn for truth?
Likewise, as I grapple with my internal grief, every effort to find answers to the questions around Elliot’s death and life delivers parallel rabbit holes and partial veracity. Why did Amazon Web Services (AWS) delete every trace of his business account when their customer service people strung me along for five months assuring me that the appropriate legal documentation would grant me access as his heir? Infuriating. Why is the Human Resources Department at Global Payments, Elliot’s employer, still giving me the administrative runaround about accessing his 401K? Why did the only witnesses to Elliot’s accident refuse to provide their contact information — and the police did not investigate? Why did the Texas Attorney General deny my private investigator’s request for photos of cars driving on that deadly ramp where Elliot lost his precious life?
Is it time to stop asking why?
I am just so damn tired, and it’s hard to imagine how I will ever process and internalize all of this — ever. Mostly, I feel alone. My reclusive son, Ian, Elliot’s younger brother, is here with me, but he is not truly present — perpetually cloistered, as well, in his room and virtual computer universe. I wish I could be his rock, but I feel more like his handful of sand. My grief seems to well up in the void of isolation. It feels different now — so ubiquitous and inescapable. Social distance and virtual interaction — they have become de rigeur.
For the next couple of weeks, I have decided to just be — no expectations, no questions. I will cherish the surprising moments, the shiny flickers of glitter dancing in the sunlight, when and if they come — paying a visit to an elderly neighbor; lingering for an hour on the phone with a friend I have not spoken with since Elliot’s death; losing myself in a particularly delightful episode of Schitt’s Creek; “Zooming” with my soul sisters, or taking in the healing wisdom of my cherished online writing group. Though these moments feel somehow incongruous within the rest of life, they are the treasures.
The times are overwhelming. There is no exit. Nothing is certain, and I struggle daily with the fundamental concepts of faith. So, I must try to make peace with uncertainty and notice every glimmer of the light . . . that’s returning.
That’s all we can do.
8 thoughts on “Love in the Time of Corona”
I treasure your writings.
This one is particularly heart felt.
This place of limbo filled with unanswered questions is extremely uncomfortable for me. And I find I don’t have stories of people or places or tangibles to rest my mind on.
My brother, John, said it’s an opportunity to write my own stories.
And i think you are doing a terrific job of just that — writing your own stories.
Be safe, stay strong, you are loved.
Mary Clutts Sent from my iPhone
Mary, thank you for reading this and for your kind words. Knowing that mine touched you in some way fills my heart. Be well.
I echo Mary’s words above.
Each of us has our own grief demons to wrestle to the ground — or to leave sitting in the front room while we labor in the back with daily living. My daughter died after an 11-month cancer treatment, in January of 2019. I woke this morning, all these months later, to the sudden realization that she would be in crucial and unending danger these days. Her stem cell transplant, in the last month of her life worked, her liver failed, and, had she lived, she would be forever immuno-compromised. We would probably still be taking her to the hospital several times a month for transfusions as her body continued to re-build. And those trips and their aftermath would be terror filled.
This was the year we were moving the family to Costa Rica (including me). That is totally off the table.
I took my tears and outright sobbing outside, in my pajamas and flip flops, to walk about a mile in the cool morning darkness, before the sunrise. A favorite time of the day. Her cancer was a complete and utter random event and I am trying to sit with my thinking that it’s better she’s gone now. I haven’t ever written those words before so thank you for opening this safe space.
Stay strong and well, Elaine. We need your voice and so do you.
MarySue, my heart breaks with yours. I feel the pain in yiur words. Thank you for sharing your story of grief and love here. We will never get over these unfathomable losses, but in community and in faith, we can help each other find a way to carry them. I am grateful we have met to walk this profound path together.💜
Thank you for this beautiful piece… life has so many unanswered questions. *sigh*
We started our spring grief program last night… online with Zoom. We were worried that the impersonal nature of a virtual meeting would not go over well. It was interesting how much more comfortable participants (who didn’t know one another) appeared on screen than is often the case when we’re in a room together.
Every one of them volunteered they were in some self-imposed void of emotional isolation which was now exacerbated by this mandated isolation… yet everyone was able to lift themselves from that darkness and be present. As you likely remember, that first session is so heavy with the weight of the collective stories of loss, grief, and frustration… yet their sense of connection from the comfort of home into the virtual space appeared to be astonishingly uplifting.
We humans are such emotionally complex beings.
Know you are loved especially because of all that complexity…
Thanks for your comments. Grief is as intimate as it is universal. No two journeys are identical. So much has to do with an individual’s life context. Interesting about the virtual grief group. I have a virtual “writing for healing” group that is profoundly comforting. However, my experiences with Zoom meetings have been mixed.There is no substitute for the tangible energetic exchange between present people. And, yet, even that is painful to absorb at times. As Lamott says, I am tying to “allow the messiness.” Love to you friend.
I liked it very much, from one griever to another.
Thanks, Doug. Carrying the weight of grief like ours is a daily challange — particularly in these chaotic, uncertain times with the ambient grief of COVID seeping into every pore. Hugs to you on this hideous journey. 💜