Eight months ago, when I’d hear the word zoom, I’d think you were referring to one of my kids blowing past you on their scooter or bicycle. Zipping down the street. Zooming high through the air on their swings as if monkeys on tree limbs. It told a different story. I don’t need to tell you, nor am I the first I’m sure, to bring up that zoom has become a different part of our vocabulary in these months between February to now. As a parent of three elementary aged kids, when I hear that word, I now think of the capitalized version. The one that sits you down at a laptop, consumes your attention on the iPad, and notifies you on your phone. And oddly enough, it’s a word that not only globally connects us, but dare I say emotionally connects us as well. Yet the surge of both grief and isolation are ever present.
For months I haven’t been ready to type these words and still now, with tears in my eyes, I doubt my readiness. But when are we ever really ready to settle with grief? When are we ever ready to experience loss? To feel hopelessness? To question nearly every decision for ourselves and of others? And yet that is what I have born witness to. That is what I’ve read in text messages from dear friends, heard in solemn tones on the phone or in passing at the grocery store. And that is how many days have left me. One friend said it this way,
“I feel like I can’t even grieve in a normal way for the loss of my grandpa because everyone is losing something or someone right now. We’re all in this and feeling this. Had it been any other year, I could have asked for prayers or felt needy in my emotions, but this year it’s all of us.”
Can I get an AMEN and a standing ovation for that comment? I don’t know if I’ve ever agreed with a comment so profoundly. Like, yes! If you read back on this blog, you’ll see that in April we lost a great man. My grandpa suffered with ALS for a few years and won the battle on April 13 where he left us to walk with Jesus. If you know anything about ALS, the idea of watching a person you love succumb to the fragility of muscle loss, then the idea of them walking is pure magic. At that time, we had been in month 2 of the COVID shut down and all I wanted to do was grieve with my family, but that felt completely against the current rules of civility and so we waited.
By month 3, we knew that this was not over. This, being: quarantine, isolation, fear, panic, hoarding, anxiety, division, waiting. And all of this was just due to COVID. I’m not even going to dive in to all that is the social media crazy-mongers and the outflow of chaos generated. I don’t even know if that’s the PC phrase, but I’m saying it because you get it.
Months 4-6 came and it was officially summer vacation. Well, it was summer. No one was on vacation. The Southwest Airline email notifications laughed in my face every time they came through. In the midst of masks we found a rhythm. We learned the best times for grocery shopping and came to the unwavering parenthood desperation for Walmart pick-up. Women learned that all it took for house projects to get done was having a husband work from home and coming face to face with the ugly paint color or unfinished floor boards every single day. Our hometown Lowes remains busier than Black Friday. More people took up gardening, and apparently both bicycles and guns (at least in California) were all out of stock. Has this time been, to anyone else, a wild social observation?
As a family, we were feeling in a groove. Not normal but attitudes were shifting towards hope. And then one evening in early August, it all went backwards for me. I had invited a few girl friends over dinner. The kids were wild in the traditional summer evening heat and us ladies took our seats on the back patio couches, ready to gab over anything new when my phone buzzed. It was my dad, to who I muted and messaged that I’d call after the girls left. Almost immediately my phone buzzed again, and then again. Multiple text messages from family with cryptic empathetic words and then my dad asking me to call him ASAP. Well that’s never good. As soon as he said Nana, I knew. I didn’t want to know that. You guys, there are people, and then there’s my Nana.
The idea of living in a world where she is not plagues me.
God, where is your rescue?
That is the question I’ve been mulling over for eight months. I’ve been desperate to hope in this crater of darkness. I didn’t quite realize how those words were forming and shaping my perspective, my choices or my responses to what I was seeing, experiencing, hearing and believing, but in the middle of that first night without her, that was all I could breathe. Whenever the guttural shift would happen, she is who I would call. She was my first call after Grandpa passed away, the first call I’d make when coming to town to visit family. One of my closest friends. And in an instant, I was claustrophobic by grief without her.
God, where is your rescue?
Have you ever watched another driver swerve and hover with road rage at the person in the car in front of them? It was just about dusk as the kids and I made our way into the Bay Area last night. We were on the 680 freeway somewhere between Milpitas and San Jose, and almost to I’m-Glad-I’m-Not-Living-Here-Anymore-Town. The traffic flow was lighter, a positive of COVID I must say, almost as if the cars themselves decided to social distance between lanes. I was a few car lengths back, noticing a blue Dodge truck nervously close to the rear end of a small grey Honda. From where I was, I could see that there were multiple cars in front of the Honda, but room enough in the right lane for Dodge to go around. All the blue Dodge needed to do was slow down, look around and give some distance to see the greater picture of traffic, then safely proceed.
For eight months I’ve been hovering over the rear end of grief, waiting for it to move. Waiting for COVID to be over. Waiting to feel rescued from the loss of two people I love very dearly. Anxious in my tone over the kids. Restless nights and short-breathed days, unable to see the free lane. Unable to see any other picture, particularly those resembling joy. Marie Kondo, where are you?
I’m putting this into words today because I’m guessing I’m not the only one who needs to say it out loud. Our middle daughter has uncovered a love for reading and lately she’s taken to this Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are wild, full of vivid color, and the 4-6 page chapters follow monumental stories taken from the Old Testament to New. Last night we were reading about God’s people leaving Egypt, in need of a rescue after being enslaved for 400 years. FOUR HUNDRED YEARS makes these 8 months weak-sauce comparatively. Over and over, the word rescue was present. Spoken aloud and I clung on those syllables.
I’m not leaving you with a best practices list for dealing with all you’ve endured for these months. Maybe you too have witnessed and endured the death of a loved one. Maybe it’s a job lost. A trip interrupted. A home destroyed by the ravenous fires. Maybe you, like me, are sitting here under a clear sky clawing for hope, so I am going to speak that over us today with this one word: RESCUE. It is here. It is available. He is present.