Pastoral Letter | April 29, 2020

Dear Friends:

Know that I continue to pray for you each day. I hope you and your families are well.  

Covid has struck home to our family now.  We know four people who have had it and recovered… and one who did not. Our friend who played the organ at our wedding succumbed to the disease last week.  He had been on a ventilator for 19 days, started getting better, and then BOOM, he was gone.  Such a wonderful man.  Please pray for Dave’s family.

As we move well into the second month of sequestering, I continue to find that thinking of my emotional reactions in the context of grief is helpful.

Each day, each hour, I think of how much better off I am than the VAST majority of the world’s population, in relation to the virus (and almost every other measure as well).  “At least I’m not in a refugee camp…or a jail…or a care center…”  “No one in my family has the virus…” “My income (from my four part-time jobs) is down about $1500 a month, but I’m doing fine compared to most people.” (I’m certainly not missing any calories.)  And on and on.

And I hear the same from you, and from the folks in the McGrath and Stillwater congregations that I phone, and from my friends.

And yet, and yet, there is still loss and grief for all of us.  It’s not a competition.  I think it’s healthy to feel what we feel.  We feel grief for the world, yes, but it’s also okay for us to feel the grief we have for our own losses.  We can’t hold our grandchildren.  Graduates are missing the fun parts of the end of school. We can’t visit our loved ones in the hospital.  We can’t go to so many places we would ordinarily go.  

It’s okay to grieve those things and not feel guilty about it.  May we keep the tension of gratitude and grief both in our lives.

Keeping in mind the stages of grief first identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross may be helpful: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  Certainly, we all were in denial for a few weeks.  “This isn’t really happening!  When will I wake up from this nightmare?”  Then I was angry at how things were so badly bungled in so many ways by so many people.  (But, as I said in my sermon a couple weeks ago, I made a conscious decision to give up sputtering as much as possible.)  Bargaining: “Just don’t let MY family get this virus!” (immediately accompanied by great feelings of guilt.)  Depression: Each of these statistics is a human being, loved by many and loved by God.  Acceptance: Well, this is the reality. What can I do this day to make things as good as possible?

Of course, in this situation and every situation of grief, these steps are not like stair steps in which we fully leave one as we move to the next.  Rather, we spiral in and out of them.  Occasionally, I experience all five of these in the same day, sometimes in the same hour, and I’m sure you do, too.

So let us continue to be patient with stay-at-home orders, to be gentle with ourselves and others, to reach out by phone to one another, to ask for help when we need it, and to be diligent in prayer.

I miss you!

In Christ,