Have you ever lost your suitcase on a train trip or plane trip? These days a comparable question is: have you ever lost your phone? Oh, the horror! Your contacts, probably your credit card info, photos all gone. These are devastating experiences of losing important pieces of our lives.
2020 has felt like one long lesson in letting go of pieces of our lives. There is so much grief surrounding us and our communities that it’s palpable and it comes out in strange ways…unattended grief always does. But if we pay attention to our grief and we examine our losses, we might find more than just loss. We might recognize some growth through the daily experiences of letting go.
Here’s a story that was sent to me when I was a resident hospital chaplain. It sticks with me as another way to process loss:
A man had traveled by train from a faraway place. On the way, his suitcase was stolen. When he arrived, he had nothing more than the clothes he was wearing. He was disturbed and angry as he sat listening to the sage. After his dialogue with the sage, he said: “My suitcase was just a suitcase until it was stolen. Now it has become a precious lesson in letting go.” - Francis J. Padinjarekara, The Ocean in a Dewdrop
If we were to write this story, we would have to amend it to match the enormity of living through a pandemic. We would not write about losing one suitcase, we would write about waking up on the wrong train and not being sure of our destination. But there is an element of growth we can aspire to. Before the pandemic, many of our lives were busy and over-planned. We have learned to let go of many of those obligations that did not bring us joy but still felt comfortable, and in learning to let go, we may have grown to recognize the precious lessons of letting go that this pandemic is teaching us.
As Christians, we boldly claim to have hope for this world and our part in it – even in a pandemic. We try not to grow weary and we do not aspire simply to survive, but to “flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12). Understanding that there are lessons that this pandemic can teach us can be an enlightening part of our flourishing.