Friday, April 17, 2020

It's Okay to Miss Them

Not long after 9/11, I read an essay by a New Yorker who'd worked near the World Trade Center who was trying to adjust to the disjointedness he felt after life was turned upside down. In this account, though, rather than dwelling on the horrors of that day he saw his loss through all of the little moments and interactions he'd had each day through September 10 that were now gone. He thought about the guy who he'd bought the newspaper from or the women who'd served him coffee; the person that ran the store now buried under dust; the security guard; the window washer; receptionist. He didn't know if they were actually gone, but they were no longer a part of his life, and because of that, he was missing something, left wondering and grieving in both big and small ways.

This I think is where we are now, those of us who are not in the thick of things. We hear of health care workers risking their very lives, of working tirelessly and witnessing heartache, and we feel that we should count our blessings. We do count our blessings. But because we have more time to think, we have more time right now to grieve the small things.

This pandemic life has only been going on for about a month but somehow feels much longer. I am grateful to have extra time at home with family, for health, for my faith, for spring, for so many things.

But you know what I miss? I miss the guy down the street with the moustache who was always out in his yard or walking his dog. We'd exchanged pleasantries for years. I am sure he must be just fine (I hope) but just laying low, but it's strange to never see him anymore.

I miss people stopping to chat with each other in grocery stores instead of scurrying like rats, holding their breath and not speaking so as to not release extra germs into the atmosphere.

I miss picking up Chloe after school and seeing the hordes of laughing elementary schoolers, filled with boundless energy, racing back and forth on the sidewalk.

I miss watching the leaves spring to life while standing on the baseball fields with my kids, kicking off the Little League season. I miss the voice of Joe Castiglione on the radio, calling the Red Sox games and the memory of being surrounded by 30,000 people in Fenway Park singing "Sweet Caroline."

I'm not a hugger by any stretch of the imagination, but I miss hugs and greetings at church on Sunday mornings and the glorious sounds of a room full of people worshipping.

I was out walking the other day as the sun set; it was the kind of evening that should have invited children on bikes and people walking dogs. Yet it was quiet; doors and windows were closed; in many houses I saw only the eerie glow of TV screens. And I could only think of something I'd been reading to Chloe a few days before. We are just finishing the last book in The Chronicles of Narnia, a story about the end of the Narnia they had known and loved. It read:

All around them the wood was very quiet. Indeed it was far too quiet. On an ordinary Narnian night there ought to have been noises -- an occasional cheery "Good night" from a hedgehog, the cry of an owl overhead, perhaps a flute in the distance to tell of Fauns dancing, or some throbbing, hammering noises from Dwarfs underground. All that was silenced: gloom and fear reigned over Narnia.  
- The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

I am an introvert. I love quiet and time alone. But even we introverts know and feel that this is not just quiet. This is gloom and fear reigning over America. And this is what breaks my heart sometimes.

After Sept. 11 I think there was a similar feeling of things getting back to normal but never really being the same again. And today I think there is some of that, but maybe it's -- we keep waiting for things to get back to the way they were, and we don't know when or if that will happen. And so we distract ourselves, or we accept it, or we waver between the two. And in the meantime, as we did when we used to look back to Sept. 10, we think about the little things that we forgot to appreciate.

I don't think this is so bad. It's part of human nature. What's that old 80's song? "Don't know what you've got, 'til it's gone..."

I am remembering the feeling of rising up in a Ferris Wheel with my kids at an amusement park and looking at miles of people without every thinking they were contagious. I'm remembering family parties and Chloe at the beach laughing at the waves, making friends with kids she's never seen before.

The waiting is like remembering someone who was special to us but is no longer with us; the warmth of memory keeps things alive. We feel sad and grateful at the same time, and that's okay. It means we more clearly see the lovely little things that grace our lives each day; each season; each year. The things we seamlessly accept without truly appreciating what they are, until they are not there.

It's okay to miss them.


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