I am haunted by a story
that popped up on my news feed this week. In northern Italy, the body of a 70-year-old woman, Marinella Beretta, who lived alone, was found dead at her kitchen table, apparently of natural causes. That’s sad, of course, but not shocking. What is shocking is that Beretta had died more than two years before her mummified body was found, before anyone missed her! (Neighbors reportedly assumed she had moved away, shortly before the pandemic lockdowns began.)
That news has prompted a good deal of soul-searching in Italy, according to the report I read. As one Italian newspaper commented, “The real sadness is not that the others did not notice her death. It is that they did not realize Marinella Beretta was alive.”
Jesus' command to “love one another” is at the heart of any Christian ethic. “Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own,” as Paul wrote to the Philippians (2:4 REB). So, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day with candy and flowers, let us also look beyond our own walls to the interests of the elderly lady who sits alone two pews in front of us in church, or of the teen who seems to have no friends, or of the single mother who lives down the street. Loneliness, too, is an epidemic.
Loving one another can be very simple. On a Zoom gathering of ministers earlier this week, one pastor shared a simple, but wonderful idea: “We are having a pot-luck luncheon after worship, on the day before Valentine’s Day,” she said. “The guests of honor will be our singles.” Each of the single adults in the congregation – whether widowed, divorced or never-married – will be given a gift, a flowering plant, to take home for Valentine’s Day. A gift to remind them that they, too, are loved.
- by Bill