I have been thinking quite a bit about hope and grief this week. As a culture, we don't do grief very well. We'd rather you keep your grief to yourself and get over it as quickly as possible. But grief just doesn't work like that.
And hope? We usually think of hope as existing separately from grief, but no. Hope becomes possible when our grief finds expression. After my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, a dear friend and colleague offered Darryl and me a ritual that recognized what we had lost and made room for our grief. The ritual also made room for hope -- for a future pregnancy and one day becoming parents. Honestly those hopes had not been real for me until I had space to honor, feel, name and hold my grief. Only then could I hope.
We are living in a time of great grief: personal and collective. Grief over the loss of routine and ritual -- gathering for church virtually, remote learning, the shut-down of sports for much of the summer, and changes to plans for graduations, weddings and funerals. Grief over the loss of connection -- having friends over for dinner, flying across the country or world to be with family, hugging and holding hands and touching shoulders. Grief over the discord in our nation, the uncovering of deep racial injustices, and the divisions between us. We can barely recognize ourselves as a country -- is this really who we are? Dare we ask if this is actually who we have always been? Grief over the loss of identity and role, work and income.
And there is the grief over the incredible suffering and actual loss of life that COVID has caused. More than 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. This number is so large that I cannot fathom it. In 9/11 2,977 Americans were killed -- too many. In the Vietnam war (which spanned 20 years) 58, 220 Americans were killed -- too many. More than 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 -- too many. We are two thirds of the way to the number of Americans killed in World War II. And we need to grieve. Because only when we have made room for and held our grief, can we find hope. And heaven knows, we need hope.
On Sunday, we will light 20 candles -- one candle for each 10,000 Americans who have died of this virus. We will hold space for our grief. And I want to invite you this week to take some time to intentionally make room for your personal grief and for the collective grief that we all share. Perhaps it looks like a walk in a beautiful place simply holding the enormity of this loss. Perhaps it involves lighting a candle and lifting up a prayer -- a thought or simply the words, "God in your mercy, hold our grief." If you were part of the grief ritual we did with Rev. Amy Smith back in June, perhaps you want to spend some time building a cairn. However you do it, I invite you to spend some time with your grief.
Grief can be overwhelming, so please don't hesitate to call or text me (970-405-9184). We are in this together. We need private and public spaces to make room for and hold our personal and collective griefs. Our Wednesday Communion services over the next few months (every other Wednesday beginning September 30) will be such spaces.
In the midst of such grief, I am grateful for God's Spirit of hope that finds us in the expression of our grief. I am grateful for community -- the reminder that I am not alone. I am grateful for the courage to be and to share honestly, vulnerably and authentically. I am grateful for each of you.
In love and hope,