As Americans, our collective remembrance and solidarity have often centered around one key question: Where were you when — ?
For my (white) parents’ generation, the question was: Where were you when you heard that JFK had been assassinated? (My parents were shopping for a TV at Sears, as my father held my older sister in his arms, and wept.) My generation’s question was: Where were you when you heard that the Twin Towers had been hit? (I was working at my desk, pregnant with my first son, when I received the call from a friend.) For my children’s generation, it very well may be: Where were you when you heard that life as we knew it would come to an abrupt halt, against a strange, new, and deadly virus?
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. And on March 27, North Carolina issued a statewide lockdown order. I remember watching Governor Cooper’s announcement in disbelief, with my two sons, as we tried to grasp this new reality of no school, no travel, no social interaction. Surely, we thought, this will be over in just a few weeks?
One year later, our lives have been altered in ways unimaginable on March 27, 2020. As of today, nearly 845,000 North Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19, and nearly 11,500 have died. We and our children remain tethered to computers as we continue virtual learning and work and Zoom meetings — and we are the fortunate ones, compared with front-line workers. So many of us are suffering from financial hardship, depression and anxiety, renewed addiction — and loneliness, as the only time over this past year that many of us have seen the faces of those we love — including our church family — has been via a phone or computer screen. And for far too many, that beloved sphere of family and friends has been painfully reduced, hollowed out by grief and loss.
Yet there is another question of identity — one that is essential to our collective remembrance and solidarity as people of faith: How might we carry within us not only the pain of all that has been lost, but also the seeds of new life? In this Lenten season, how might we bear witness in our lives to the Paschal Mystery of redemption and resurrection as we journey toward Easter — and beyond, into a post-pandemic world?
As we move closer to a return to “normal,” perhaps we best honor that and those whom we have lost by embracing the opportunity to create a new “normal,” one that is more compassionate, more faithful, more hope-filled — more mindful that we are all interconnected, to one another, to Creation itself. To become collaborators with the Divine in forging a new heaven and a new earth, where the two do not exist as separate, unbridgeable spheres, but are intertwined through God’s infinite grace and mercy.
“Do this in remembrance of me.” As people of persistent and courageous faith — let us honor this call.