This past week brought fresh waves of grief to our nation and to our local community. Even as many families gathered around candle-lit tables and held hands to give thanks, other families were in darkest mourning for those whose hands they will never hold around a holiday table again. And what do we do with the weight of all this sorrow?
When I saw boxes of candy canes and foil-wrapped Santas lining the shelves of my grocery store one week before Halloween, I wasn’t surprised. There are many signs of how far society has fallen from what was once considered sensible. And yet, I thought, have we really come to this? Blitzing through our days so fast that we barely have time to celebrate one holiday before marketers are ram-rodding another down our throats?
A news story on NPR this week featured Kitty Eisele, the host of Demented, a podcast about caring for her elderly father. She mentioned that one in five American adults currently provides unpaid care for an elderly or disabled family member. Having been in that position once before, I found myself temporarily in it again this past week when, despite those of us who were eligible being fully vaccinated, my family and I came down with COVID-19.
I am no expert on sorrow, although I’ve lived long enough to know that none of us is exempt. There are no detours wide enough to navigate your way around suffering. No bank account big enough to buffer those you love. No life untouched by loss.
Ever found that the more familiar you are with something, the less likely you are to notice it? Like the earth turning each day to catch the first bright rays of the sun. Or the liquidy feel of water as it rolls over your tongue. Or the shifting swoosh of sound that fills our days – from morning bird songs to the evening breeze?
September has long been my favorite month, and not just because I get to celebrate my birthday. But because it feels like the climax of the year, as if every seed and limb and leaf has been working together for just this moment to release its fruit before ceding to fall.