Yesterday started with a phone call from my sister-in-law Kathleen. She was crying, wailing. We couldn’t make out what she was saying. And then through the sobs we heard, ‘Jason! My Jason! I want my Jason!’
I held onto the phone so tightly, wishing I could rush to her side and wrap my arms around her. We cried, sobbed and wailed together, in shock and utter disbelief.
Her son, our nephew, had died. Suddenly and unexpectedly. He was at home, in his apartment. He had been feeling under the weather. When my brother-in-law, Al checked on him the day before, he didn’t have a fever. He didn’t seem to be too sick. No cause for concern. But something must’ve changed overnight. When he didn’t answer his phone in the morning, Al went to check on him again, and he had died.
When Al walked into that apartment, the ground was pulled out from under him. When he called Kathleen, the earth shook to the core and slipped away from beneath her. With Kathy’s phone call, we were shaken as the floor was pulled out from under us. With each subsequent phone call to family members, we left more people groundless.
I cried all day. On and off all day. I tried, in small bits, to stay in the moment while I read, watched tv, took a walk. But my thoughts kept turning back to Kathy and Al. Their pain. Their deep sense of shock, loss, and emptiness. The sadness. The disbelief. The anger.
I thought about everything that has been happening over the past several weeks, in our family, the illnesses and deaths. I thought about the tremendous and significant loss our little town has experienced. So much suffering. So much pain.
Multiply that loss and pain by hundreds in our county, by thousands in the state of NJ. The ground has been pulled out from beneath us all. The uncertainty. The ache. The trauma. The collective sobs. We are unable to see to the other side of this, because there is no end in sight. And we can’t find our footing.
How can we stay grounded when we no longer trust the ground?
Speaking to a friend this morning, she reminded me that my own advice would be to breathe deeply and focus on the present moment. But turning inward to find peace doesn’t seem like the right thing to do in this time of collective quarantine, this time of collective separation and extreme collective isolation.
I think we may need to turn outward. We need to talk about it, together. We need to feel it, together. We need to cry, scream, wail, and rage, together.
We need to feel anxious and worried together. About the future. About what could happen. What might happen. What won’t happen ever again.
We need to feel lucky, together. Feel lucky that we have a house. That we are healthy. That we scored that toilet paper on-line. That we haven’t lost anyone close to us.
We need to feel guilty, together. Feel bad that we survived the virus, when others are on ventilators. That we have a house when others don’t. That we have enough hand sanitizer. That we haven’t lost anyone close to us.
We need to mourn together. Mourn the loss of our senior year. Our prom. Our vacation. Our sports. Our plans. Our expectations. Our acquaintances. Our loved ones. And so many human lives.
We need to feel frustrated, confused, and angry, together. Angry about the situation. The misinformation. The administration.
We need to express gratitude together. Gratitude for the smallest things- a piece of bread, a good cup of coffee. Gratitude for the biggest things- waking up this morning, taking a full, deep breath.
We need to find the dark humor, and laugh, together. We need to seek out the memes and tweets, and bad puns, and share them with each other.
We need to hope together. Dream together. Make loose plans for the uncertain future, together.
We can only get through this together. When we can no longer trust the ground, we have to trust in each other, reach out to each other, hold on to each other, and keep each other from falling in.