One morning last week I noticed the last patch of daisies growing in the garden in the center of our backyard. While other flowers were drooping, the daisies were bravely hanging on to their vibrancy as the temperature began to drop. I grabbed my cellphone, snapped a picture, and sent it to my cousin with a few words, “I’m thinking of you.” It is a new ritual. As pink flamingos remind us even now of her older sister who died of pancreatic cancer several years ago, daisies are the secret connection that pulls up the smiling face of my cousin in my heart. Daisies are my “feel-good” flower that connect me to a dear person in my life.
There are other things that happen during the day to bring up memories that don’t lead to me “feeling good.” I live in a large community. When I walk into the cafeteria for dinner and the only place left to sit is to at a new table by myself, feelings of loneliness and rejection flood me, memories of grade-school experiences. I don’t know why those feelings are suddenly there again, but there they are.
No matter how many times I sit down at a new table and a sister jumps up to join me so I won’t be alone, something in me still trembles as I make my way to the empty table. Probably I’ll carry this fear of no one wanting to be with me all my life, and the simple act of sitting down at a meal, so easy for others, will always have a bit of this tension. Most days I can deal with it, but when the stakes are higher, at special celebratory meals with guests for instance, the anxiety is more acute.
Every life contains experiences that leave scars on us.
Some are small bruises like the one I just described, and some are tragic life-draining experiences that alter our lives in huge ways. Many times, we can deal with them, push them aside and carry on. But other times, like these pandemic days, it can just get to be too much.
So, as COVID-19 hangs on with the probability of a second wave, we sisters are thinking of any of you whose memories of the past threaten to derail your life-possibilities today.
When sights, and smells, and lockdowns, and losses, and life changes brought on by the pandemic and isolation are making you feel alone with the ghosts of your past.
When hearts are heavy because there is no one to walk with as you carry the pain of a memory of a miscarriage, or abortion, or divorce, or a loved one’s death, or sexual abuse.
When you feel lost and depressed and scared of the future.
I think the Evil One right now is having a heyday convincing us that no one cares, no one notices.
That we are alone with no one to help.
That we are crying and no one hears.
The courage to listen to your own heart and then to reach out for God is the first step to reclaiming your life.
When I walk into a full cafeteria I want to turn around, run, and hide. Yet when I read the books that have become my life-companions that calm my fear, and when I experience the kindness of someone who chooses to sit with me, the fear evaporates.
By constantly replacing my inward fearful stories with the words of Jesus, by listening to the wisdom of authors who show me again and again through their writing how God is holding me in my labyrinth of fear, I have the courage to believe I am God’s precious child, loved, wanted, dear to him. I have the courage to offer my love to others, instead of waiting to see if others want me around.
In this pandemic year 2020, our sorrows and life’s broken places become bigger, scarier, more present because of the uncertainty of what is going to happen to us. There is no way to turn the calendar back to 2019. 2020 won’t repeat itself, but 2021 is still a mystery for everyone. We keep expecting COVID-19 to end soon, so there is still that little hope that we don’t have to permanently modify our lives. The future, however, will in some way be different. And that “difference” will eventually become normal for us.
These weeks in the midst of the waiting and hoping for a vaccine, as we contemplate the mystery of what is to be, this time in which we are thinking of what our Christmas holidays will be like, is the time to reach out for help, to strengthen connections that will make the sorrows lighter and the memories less powerful, to find healing through courage and the tenacity of hope.
We have specially chosen a number of books on a variety of topics by quality authors who can walk with you on the way and point out to you the ways in which God is present in the sacred spaces of your pain. No matter what has happened in your life, you need to hear this message from God whispered in your heart:
“You are my precious child. You are loved. You matter. Nothing and no one can change my love for you. You deserve healing. Do not listen to the voices that say you are alone, no one cares, no one understands. People are there. Just reach out. A way through the darkness has been prepared for you. Begin to read, to pray, and to walk on that way. I love you. I love you. I love you. I can’t say it enough. I love you.”
Image credit: pixabay – S. Hermann & F. Richter