What am I giving up for Lent? This year, that question seems weirdly out of place like a pot of mud on a dinner table. It seems like an artificial exercise for those who are privileged. I would be ashamed to ask that question of someone who just lost a loved one or went through the punishing weather many people in Texas experienced.
It felt like every day one had to ask what one could do, where one could safely go, what one had better give up. Besides missing having friends to our table for meals or tea, and traveling less, I truly felt the loss of connecting with people I love at funeral and memorial services, whether the death was from COVID or not. Last summer, it was the funeral of a patriarch from the community where I was born. Five of the man’s children had once been my students. but he died of COVID and I could not feel comfortable meeting the family and others. Then there was the last of my aunts on my Dad’s side in Pennsylvania. Even though social distancing and masks were encouraged, I did not trust that all the relatives would comply in that narrow valley. When a dear friend’s mother, who was also our friend, passed away several weeks ago, they had a graveside family service to avoid the awkwardness and potential danger of spreading the virus.
Today was the funeral of my dad’s youngest brother in another small town in Pennsylvania. My cousin said masking and social distancing would not even be required or promoted by the church where the service would be held. I loved this uncle also and wanted to be there to mingle with family. Again, I could not feel comfortable going. I didn’t want others to feel uncomfortable if I would appear stand-offish, nor did I want to face those who might arouse my judgment at their refusal to be considerate of others. So giving up attending funerals has definitely been a part of this year’s Lent.
On the other hand, Lent is also about self-reflection and prayer. What better time to do that than in a sustained period of loss. We need the comfort of God’s daily presence as well as reflection on what we still DO have as good gifts in our lives. I am privileged to have a home and warmth, and a good husband to share it with in the midst of a long pandemic winter–to name just a few of my blessings that many people don’t have.
Looking out the window under the willow oak, I see green daffodil shoots poking through winter’s brown leaves–a sign of new life, of hope, and resurrection.