Giving and Grieving

I have been moved during his season of lockdown for COVID-19 by the creativity and giving – the radical generosity that has surfaced in our communities. Teddy bears in windows to enable an afternoon walk to become a ‘bear hunt’; neighbours, organisations and churches phoning the elderly and isolated;  young people and neighbours shopping for those who can’t; streets celebrating children’s birthday’s with balloons and messages of love on letterboxes; our spirits being lifted by our musicians, actors and poets offering their gifts on YouTube bringing ‘aha!’ moments, laughter and tears, not to mention all the exercise classes!

A community apart but together.

As I reflect on this my mind draws on remnants of stories of days gone by – stories of hardship that we have never known, where giving and gratitude were the threads that have held this world together. Albert Rios writes:

“………..You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give – together, we made
Something greater from the difference.”

These beautiful words resonate as we consider how we can give to those who grieve and mourn in this season.

How can we reach out to those whose beloved family member has died and perhaps the pain is etching deeper because they couldn’t be with them in their passing? This can be a sacred and meaningful moment that is now lost.

This is also a time when the physical presence of family and friends to hug and hold, to sit together in silence, are the things we most need yet in this particular season we can’t have or give. A key part of grieving is feeling our grief acknowledged and reflected by family, friends and community as they journey with us bearing witness to this.

So how do we respond to those we know and love who are  moving through loss without feeling those arms of love around them?

Rabbi Josef Kanefsky has some wisdom for us:

Every hand that we don’t shake
Must become a phone call that we place.
Every embrace that we avoid
Must become a verbal expression
Of warmth and concern.
Every inch and every foot
That we physically place between
Ourselves and another,
Must become a thought as to how
We might be of help
To that other,
Should the need arise.

He calls us to an amplified focus on what we can do – phone calls, Zoom and FaceTime catch-ups, cards, prayers, community creativity – and perhaps for some there is more time on their hands to do so.

In this season of pandemic and lockdown babies continue to be born and loved ones continue to die. Over the last few weeks I have enjoyed a ‘Lock Down Learning’ module with the Celebrant School with a creative focus on support, services and memorials for this window of time. It is so important to mark the loss of a loved one, to bear witness as a community and to journey with those who are grieving and I look forward to working with families do this. Together we can capture and create a sacred moment to remember and honour their loved ones, be it an online Zoom service; a small service with up to 10 present and everyone else live-streaming; planning a memorial service for when the lockdown levels ease or a combination.

Witness and ‘withness’.

A community apart but together.

Fear dissolves and love flourishes.