The Things We Carry

A couple of weeks ago, I got a frightened phone call from my sister.

She was walking home from worship service at her church, during which someone had fallen ill and collapsed. She had watched, with growing concern, as several people had tried to revive this woman, and then – failing to do so – called in the paramedics.

The pastors had interrupted the service to move everyone to another room in the building, where they concluded the now-solemn gathering with a song and prayer. People sang quietly, tears streaming down their faces, and then left in silence, all wondering – did we just watch someone die?

My sister called me, shaken up and asking the same. She said it made her realize all of the trauma we’re still carrying around from the last two years of COVID, of watching people die all around us and being helpless to save them. That we haven’t resolved that, haven’t necessarily processed it, and still have to deal with its repercussions and consequences.

It’s good to get back to something like normal, to gather again, to hug, to share meals and laughter and celebrate the big and little things.

But I’ve also noticed that sometimes this urge to “get back” doesn’t leave space for the reality that we are different people now. We have been through something terrible, and we can’t just flick a switch and turn it all off.

At the very least, we realize how precious and wonderful it is to celebrate birthdays and weddings and graduations and even to gather for funerals in physical space together.

But perhaps more honestly, we are profoundly exhausted, and grieved, and we have lost some things we may never get back.

That woman from church, I am happy to say, is just fine. But that night at church reminded my sister and I of something important: of what we are still carrying.

And so, as we get back in some ways, to some things – here is what I hope we remember: that we are different people now. But that doesn’t have to be all bad. We can be more grateful, more deeply rooted in the blessing of what is right in front of us. We can be kinder to ourselves and to others, recognizing that we all carry untold burdens. We can be more open to the grace and mercy of every day. We can be more curious about what God is doing, even when things seem bleak.

I hope we will.

-Pastor Jen

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