Abiding in Exile 8/4/2022

Abiding in Exile 8/4/2022

August 02, 2022

Considering our losses

By Cindy Hickman

A wise friend once told me that if we want to understand someone, we should consider what that person has lost. Right now, at least to me, the world seems pretty confusing. This seems like a good time to take my friend’s advice and consider our losses. I asked my Facebook friends to describe what they lost during the pandemic. They poured out their hearts. Here’s what they said:

They lost their health.
I lost my taste, and it changes my perspective on enjoying food.  
I lost the fitness level I was so determined to keep in the first several months.  

They lost financial stability.
I lost a job twice due to covid and profits being down.  
I lost my work assignment in Jerusalem.  

They lost loved ones.
My mother. My brother. A great uncle. My dad, who was my best friend, not due to covid, just because he was ready to go home. My brother. Two grandparents.  Members of my church. My uncle. My step grandpa. My favorite great aunt. My grandpa. 54 friends and colleagues around the world. My grandparent and several old friends. (At the time this was written, 9,782 Iowans had died due to covid.) 

They lost connection to others.
My ability to visit my mother in person.
My marriage.  
I lost the continuity of going to church and have not regained it.  
A traditional baby shower.  
I went to my first two ultrasounds alone when we found out we were having twins.  No one could visit the hospital after the girls were born. 
I lost time with my family and at my age that time is precious.  
I missed seeing my grandchildren who were growing up so fast and I could not travel to see them. 
I missed going to church and Zoom made me feel disconnected and did not give me the spiritual renewal in-church service does.  
I lost time with family, especially my brother in a care center.  
My nuclear family was shattering before the pandemic began which severed many friendships long before quarantine set in. The isolation and separation for so long from nearly everyone has made it very difficult for me to want to be social again - which was one of my favorite things to look forward to before. 
I lost the precious first year of my Texas grandson’s life. No newborn snuggles, no rocking him to sleep or late-night feedings. I watched his first milestones…rolling over, sitting up, giggling and first steps via FaceTime. I felt as though I was robbed of that very special, fleeting time of the first year of life that I so enjoyed being a part of with the other 4 grandchildren. Thankfully I was able to meet him shortly after his 1st birthday. There were lots of joyful tears in the San Antonio airport!
I lost touch…no hugs, no playing with my friends’ children, no holding friends who lost their spouses, no shaking hands, no holding the hands of folks who sense they are loved mainly through having their hands held.  
I lost the chance to see a wonderful friend get married and I had to wait to meet a baby nephew until he was a toddler.  

They lost faith in one another.
My hope wavered. I lost my brother (61) because his needed organ transplant was then considered “elective surgery” during the early pandemic. His wife and daughters couldn’t be with him. I’ve never felt such loss, grief, and anger for the unfairness.  
I lost confidence in the United States being able to set rules for medical outbreaks. 
Positivity is it for me. We live in such a cruel world. People with so much hate and people that are all about themselves and cannot look past that. It just saddens me every day. My first grandchild was born last year, and I am teaching him to be a kind little person.  
Lost my sense of safety. There is nowhere, not even church, where I feel safe from gun violence or covid or people being jerks.  
(One person cited Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign to beautify our highways by not littering. They felt that we are leaving more trash around.) I think we are slipping back to our old ways. This demonstrates a disregard for our world.  This is not a tree hugger writing, but I think it says something very sad about us. 
Confidence in participating or entering social events by myself.  
I lost faith in a lot of people.  There are so many butt-heads and not kindness anymore, more selfishness since the pandemic. 

They lost soul-strength
Most days I go about just fine, on others the reality of who and what I’ve lost hits incredibly hard. 
I lost some of my positivity.  I’m saddened by our divisiveness and cruelty to those around us.  
I’ve learned to live in my pockets of grief and cherish moments that come with that.  
I lost my ignorance and naivete about some big issues.  
A loss of innocence.
A sense of relative safety in the world. 
The idea that I was still fairly young in the grand scheme of things.  
A major part of me has vanished and I don’t know how to get it back again or even If I want it any longer.
And despite all the isolation, I lost a kind of solitude that feels like it is harder to find now.

I can imagine your heads nodding as you read these comments.  You and I have felt many of these same feelings.  We all lost something.

I know that when I am grieving, I have little energy.  My arms seem to lose strength and hang at my sides.  Nothing seems to matter much beyond the ache I feel. 
During this post pandemic time, we have all experienced supply chain issues.  “Now Hiring” signs hang in store windows in what has been called “The Great Resignation.”  Customer service and responsiveness have slowed down.  I have been waiting for three days for a call from my insurance company.  The message on their phone says they will respond within 24 hours.  My doctor is referring me to a specialist for medical testing.  The nurse cautioned me that it would be a while before I would hear from the specialist. Maybe this is all due to economic disruption, but just maybe people are grieving, tending to their losses, trying to rebuild the foundation that was lost.  

When I lose a night’s sleep, I get tired during the day.  When I lose my car keys, I get frustrated.  If I lose my wallet, I panic and I quickly get angry.  These are minor losses compared to the losses my friends shared.  In our losses, we are vulnerable and fearful.  Grief can easily turn to bitterness and blaming.  When we experience multiple losses, the threat of future loss becomes chronic anxiety.  

What was lost in your church during the pandemic?  Every pastor I have talked to lost someone.  And even if there were no deaths due to covid, the church, for a time anyway, lost the ability to gather for funerals and weddings and baptisms, all the ways we affirm the rich goodness of community shared.  There are most likely fewer people in the pews on Sunday morning.  The old familiarity and ease are gone. The phrase “Before the pandemic…” haunts us, a constant reminder of what was lost.  Thin theology that declares “God is in control,” as though that is the end of the discussion, has lost its meaning.  We wonder a lot, about God, about what we thought before, about the future. 

We’ve lost our footing. How to get it back?  A quick easy answer would be to simply say: faith.  And chide others for not having a blind trust in God.  But faith is a process.  We grow in faith and faith can wane when our foundations are shaken.  How do we begin the process of growing our faith again?  And what will faith and a firm foundation look and feel like post-pandemic?  

When there has been a death, we offer our condolences.  We send cards. We stop by with cookies and casseroles. We offer hugs.  We encourage one another. We move and speak with tenderness.  And in the shelter of warmth and concern of others, we heal.  

What if we do as my friend suggested and see those around us as people who have lost something?  Can we move and speak with tenderness?  Can we, especially we who follow Christ, ask others how they are doing and listen, really listen?  Isn’t warmth and concern for others something God expects of us?  Shouldn’t we be doing that, even if there had not been a pandemic?  Is a renewed sense of caring for others a blessing we can wrestle from the pandemic that took so much?  It may sound odd, but can we live in this time as though we are all attending a funeral luncheon?  We Methodists are especially good at funeral luncheons, that time when the worst has been faced, the goodness of God declared, and we can all exhale.  At a funeral luncheon, we surround the bereaved.  We lean into one another, tell our stories, until assurance replaces grief over potato salad and ham sandwiches. 
Here's a little music for our funeral luncheon.  Singer and Songwriter shares, Sara Groves shares “You Can Not Lose My Love.”

Many thanks to those who offered their thoughts and comments.  You bravely opened your hearts. That gives us the courage to open ours.     



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