We each encounter tough times as we advance through the ups and downs of our lives. For the past couple of years we have had the collective burden of uncertainty caused by a tiny virus that has invaded the world like a silent army. Everything feels upside down, out of whack, as we attempt to adjust to a new normal that has restricted our human contacts, threatened our sense of security, and sadly divided us into sometimes raging camps. During this seemingly never ending sojourn we have all lost loved ones either to the virus itself or to other diseases or accidents. Somehow the impact of each death has been magnified in our minds, often because we did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to people who had meant so much to us. Even as we attempt to bridge the gaps made by two years of uncommon ways of living we are wary that somehow nothing will ever again be the same.
These many months have included a litany of deaths. The recitation of the names is painful more so because we have worked so hard to keep ourselves, our families and our unraveling society together. Some of us have turned to science for a solution. We’ve taken jabs of the vaccine. We’ve religiously donned our masks and proceeded with caution. Some have attempted to simply carry on as though the braver thing to do is to keep living as usual, counting on strong constitutions or God to carry us through the pandemic and back to our lives as we had known them before 2020. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell who is right and who is wrong or if there is even a definitive way of determining the best way of surviving all of the chaos.
We prefer to control our lives. We want order and design in our world. We have our routines and when they are interrupted we don’t function as well as we should. Our brains send us messages that something is not quite right and so we react, each in our own ways. Some among us have an illness that is as real as the virus. They suffer from depression, a deep and dark despair that hurts as painfully and surely as a broken bone or a cancer. The source of their disease is often hidden and almost always misunderstood. We nudge such souls to get a grip, to just do this or that to chase the darkness away. We do not understand why they cannot adapt and take command of their feelings. It frightens us to see them in such a state and so we often look away from them at the very moment when they need us most.
I have been deeply saddened by the deaths of friends and family members and acquaintances. Some have died from COVID 19, but not all. Every single loss has affected me and those who loved them a bit more deeply during this strange and trying time. Recently I learned of the passing of a very good man who had devoted his life to helping young people to achieve their athletic goals. He had touched my heart by showing up to encourage my grandson in all of his races. He was a constant in our family’s life, a bright light in a sometimes difficult world. He took the time to let my grandson know that he was important. He had trained my grandson in the art and skills of running for over eight years. He was as proud as a parent when my grandson was recruited to run for Trinity University. I liked him so very much because he was someone who genuinely cared.
This wonderful beautiful man took his own life. It was soul crushing to realize that he had been so depressed that he lost all hope. It made me wonder if he realized how much we had admired and loved him. Should we have been more explicit in our feelings for him? Do we as humans miss the cues that someone is struggling? Have we been so wrapped up in maintaining a semblance of normalcy in our own lives that we did not see his suffering or even think to inquire about how he was doing?
There are people around us who are deeply depressed. All too often they hide their feelings behind fake bravado or humor. We tend to prefer them that way. It is awkward and difficult to hear someone who is in a dark place express the true feelings that they have. It frightens us to know how intense their pain actually is. We want to push them into a state of happiness before their minds are ready to be there. We provide them with platitudes and advice rather than understanding that they need intensive care to overcome their very real illnesses that make them feel weak and unworthy. Without the right kind of help their pain can overwhelm them. They have to make it stop and we lose them just as we have lost this very good man and so many others like him.
There is so much noise and chaos all around us. We are raging about the cost of living instead of asking who needs a hand to survive. We are upset because we can’t get what we want when we want it instead of being patient and accepting that we may have to make some sacrifices for a time. We want to rush back to the way things were instead of easing our way back into our old routines and maybe even making changes that will make our lives better than before. We are rushing around pretending that if we just wish things to feel normal again they will be. In the meantime we might better use our time quietly contacting or connecting with the people who mean much to us. We should be checking on one another regularly, sharing our good fortune with those who have less. This should be a time of listening, understanding, loving. We don’t want to one day wake up to find that a very good man’s life became so dark that he saw no way out but ending it.