I’ve been oddly fortunate to have not experienced much tragedy or death in my life. Some of that is due to just dumb luck, but a lot of it may simply be numbers: I grew up in a pretty small family, and a lot of the traditional extended family had already passed by the time I was born. My one grandparent passed nearly 20 years ago; distance and time had always limited the closeness of that relationship. I felt more sad for my Dad, who hadn’t gotten to be with her when she died. Other than her, I’d never lost a family member or even a friend.
But in the annus horribilis that was 2020, my father died. Like so many others, I had to confront the pain and confusion of dying, death, and existential crises, in a year that had already seen me laid off from my beloved teaching position and over 200,000 deaths in the US alone due to the sheer incompetence and indifference of the Trump administration. My father did not die of coronavirus infection, but the pandemic kept some of my family, including me, apart from him as he lay in a hospital, virtually alone, for months. When he finally left the hospital for home hospice care, he declined so quickly that I could only listen on the phone as he passed into the next life.
Through the pain and guilt of everything that happened, there were bright shining moments of human kindness that I will never forget, and which move me to tears every time I think on them. But in a time of grieving and loss, the kindness of others is a balm for that grief. While it cannot remove pain or bring back those who are gone, it can overlay your grief, changing the tones and shades of mourning into something richer and less monotone. I will hold tightly to these moments as I continue to grieve, clutching the comfort they provide like a talisman.Continue reading