Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lamenting the cost of safety. . .

Now that 2021 has begun, the hope we all have is that we can begin to set aside the new normal and find a way to live in community once again.  Though the cost of the attempts to prevent the virus were measured most profoundly in terms of the number of deaths and the numbers entering poverty and the numbers of businesses shuttered for good, there were other costs.

I think of my friend of more than 40 years and my age who retired after serving so faithfully only to die months after his retirement.  The loss was compounded by the fact that at his funeral, the people of the parish viewed the body from a sort of drive through visitation before only a couple of siblings, a niece, another pastor or two and a handful from the parish were there for the Requiem Divine Service.  And then it was over.

I think of another pastor who preached his final sermon to an empty church as technology carried his words to his scattered flock -- only to have him die within six months and seventeen to sit in the funeral, remembering his life with thanksgiving, and turning to the Lord for the comfort of His Word.  Again, technology sent the service out to those not present.

I think of the many in my parish who were isolated in assisted living centers and nursing homes while the doors were closed to family and clergy and how many of them fell into decline while living in the solitude of their rooms -- without stimulation, company, or the community of friends and family.  Not to mention those who died alone in those rooms -- victims of COVID whether they had it or not -- and their families who could not say good bye or hold their hands.  These losses were not only in the parish but across the nation in our families.

I think of the personal side of so many services so to accommodate the many in shortened liturgies with smaller attendance -- not to mention of my wife who practically wore out a pair of shoes rushing between chapel and main sanctuary as the services went on and on and on.  And the Cantor who rushed between organs and locations so that we might sing a hymn.  And the preacher who preached his sermon over and over and over again until he wished never to hear it again.

I think of my 90 year old mother who spent so many months without leaving her home and her fears less of getting the disease than loved ones getting it and not recovering.  I think of the distance that had to accompany the joyful welcome of a new grandchild and of the hopeful moments spent in waiting to actually see him face to face.  I think of the stress I brought home to my wife and of her patience as I ranted away my frustration at trying to be a pastor in such times like these.  I think of our own family, our own health and of our own personal comorbidities (how I have come to hate that word) that could affect our ability to survive infection.

And then there are the other things.  Vacations set aside, visits postponed, trips not taken, and simple excursions locally that turn into something big as you constantly weigh the cost of going out.  Or the hugs you would have given to the family mourning a loss, or the people sharing good news, or the greetings given to people you have not seen for a while.  The authorities have told us we had to give up these things and in the grand scheme of things they seem like little things.  But are they?

In the strange world where being social means being distant, millions have longed for contact -- any sort of contact -- with another person.  Waiting to give and receive a hug from children, grandchildren, and friends is not a small thing or incidental or non-essential -- it is what we were created to know and redeemed to do.  Frankly, I am sick and tired of being told by a talking face on the screen that if we really loved our loved ones we would give up loving them to save them.  For what kind of life?

I wonder how many people's lives were hastened to decline and death by the restrictions of COVID, how many people died of something other than COVID but who died alone because of the restrictions of COVID, and how many people whose mental health has been severely altered because of the restrictions of COVID.  No, we cannot bring back those who died but the living will carry the weight of living with the restrictions every bit as much as they will carry the memory of those whose death ended up increasing the totals reported to us as breaking news for 9 months.


Carl Vehse said...

And with all of this tyranny forced on Christians and other Americans, not one word has been raised about Xi and the ChiComs who released this plague on the world, especially with Xi's sockpuppet about to occupy the White House and his other sockpuppets in leadership positions in the House and Senate.

It's like it was just some unfortunate naturally-occurring explosions that happened to occur on some naval ships and military bases in Pearl Harbor.

Timothy Carter said...

Thank you for your kind, caring concern for those of us trapped in our isolation. I read your blog daily and it is a beam of brightness in my isolation here on the farm in the cold, wet winter hills of Appalachia.
I also enjoy other simple things like Don McClean singing "By the Waters of Babylon...We lay Down and Wept...for The Zion." The beautiful song sung in a "Round" with amazing harmonies remains me that we believers in a Merciful, Just God have been through hard times before and God has kept his primroses...and he will keep His primroses and see us through this plague.
I look forward to your Blogging to keep me hopeful in dark times...most of your Blogs are much more up beat than this particular one...I too am living in lonely isolated pain...and you give me hope with your Confessional words.
Timothy Carter, simple country Deacon, Kingsport, TN.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Unable to sleep tonight, as I mull over the events of this past year, I too feel the sense of isolation this plague has wrought. I think many of us are fighting depression and despair, and if it were not for the thought that Our Lord is listening to the prayers and cries of His people, it would overwhelm us all. How I miss the normal life we once had, and how I regret complaining about mundane things, things which seem so insignificant now, yet they seemed important at the time. As I open my IPad and read the news accounts, knowing much if it is lies, and gkancing at the hateful words of people posting responses filled with violent rhetoric, I want to say, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." But the Lord will come on His own timing, not mine or yours, and we are commanded to stay the course, remain faithful, bear witness to the truth if the Gospel, and remember that life on this earth, whether joyful or in misery, is for a season only. I will be 76 next week. I have watched the world go by ever so quickly, and my wonderful and cherished wife of over 50 years, who sleeps while I write this, is particularly vulnerable to the Covid, having Pulmonary issues. At this point, I want to do what is in my power, taking all precautions, to keep her alive. We already have enough health issues. All we can do is the best we can, and pray, and believe in the grace of God, and perhaps we shall walk out of this valley eventually. God bless one and all. Soli Deo Gloria.