Earlier this week, our President and Vice-President marked a nearly incomprehensible milestone in our nation’s life: 500,000 dead of COVID-19. 500,000 daughters, sons, children. 500,000 parents and spouses. 500,000 work colleagues. 500,000 retirees and basketball coaches, volunteers and teachers, knitters and dog-owners and neighbors. 500,000 lovers, friends, confidantes and lifelines. 500,000 beautiful, beloved human beings.
It’s an impossible number to grasp. More Americans have died this year from COVID than died in both World Wars and Vietnam combined, we’re told. This certainly makes an impression – but does it help us to know what that number really means? Last month, we rang our church bells for the then 400,000 dead. It took us half an hour, and we were only tolling the bell once for each thousand of the departed. Toll – one thousand. Toll – one thousand. Toll – one thousand. How can we grasp the magnitude of this loss? The number is so enormous something within us wants to reject it. It’s as if our hearts simply won’t accept this much death.
The even greater heartbreak, of course, is that this number is only a fraction of those who have died this year – people who died of some other disease or accident or violence, people who died alone while their families and friends wept on iPads, people who seemed to simply disappear. We always say that we have “lost” loved ones, but this year it feels especially true. Where did they go? Where was my chance for one last word of love, of forgiveness? Where was my goodbye? We have lost many people from our parish this year, most recently the gracious and generous Jim Hawkes. Each of these deaths has landed on us with a thump of grief; each one has bruised our already lonely hearts. How can we hold this sorrow?
There is a heart, of course, that can carry the weight of this pain. Take my yoke upon you, our Savior says, and learn from me. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Christ is inviting us – you and me – to bind our hearts to his so that he can take up some of this great load for us. And Christ is also inviting us – this and every day – to come together, to share our loss and to help each other find the path to the place of rest, of new life, of hope.
On Saturday, March 20, beginning at 9:00 am, Atonement invites you to join us for a Quiet Morning of prayer entitled “Struggling with Loss; Touching our Grief.” Mother Joy Rogers and I will offer reflections on the challenges of this year, and join with you as we prayerfully search for the signs of the hope of our faith. The morning will culminate in a liturgy of remembrance for those from our community who have died this year. You’ll find more information about this Quiet Morning in the email; I invite you, warmly, to join us. For Christ is our comfort and our salvation. Come to the foot of his cross; come bearing your broken, beautiful heart. Come, and be found.