On a frigid day in January, we returned from the cemetery all lost in our own thoughts and grief and I laid down on my mom’s side of the bed trying to feel the comfort of the places she graced, the faint smell of her perfume and in the always changing stack of four books she was reading at the same time by her bedside. When I closed my eyes, the building tears rolled down my cheeks, “Are you there G-d? It’s me, Glenda.” A mantra from one of my favorite books from much younger days. From days when worries seemed to revolve around a first kiss, when I might ever need a bra, birthday parties and whose sprinkler would we run under. But today, there were harder questions, ones most never want to face. Lonely questions. A pain that causes a physical ache so much so that you can feel your heart tear. Are you there G-d? Watch over us, give us comfort, heal us. I never thought of what was to come.
After the 30 day mourning period of shloshim ended, there were murmurs of a virus. An outbreak in a city not too far from where we grew up in New York. It’s a flu, we will be ok, people might die, we will be ok, it’s a virus, we will be ok. Within what felt like minutes, the world began to shut down like a black out rolling over city buildings, one at a time, into darkness. Dreams, hopes, and wishes felt wilted into sadness, anxiety, and illness. Graduations, weddings, celebrations, life cycle moments, first kisses, and hugs taken away, but so too were jobs, homes, food, mental health, and the very breath of life. I had to be done praying for healing from the loss within my circle. Are you there G-d? It’s me, Glenda. We really need one of your epic saves! Seriously, like waters parting, doves with the twig, it’s literally burning bush time! I know you are weeping with us as we bury our loved ones, but we need you. Do something, anything, please help us.
Now of course I know from past experience that G-d is not a big talker. Not always “answering” in the traditional ways, but my voice was not the only one. English isn’t the only language in which people were pleading and praying. Just answer. Knowing that we needed each other as much as we did G-d, if we were able, we signed up for Zoom, exercised, read, took walks, posted, tagged, tweeted, snapped, cooked, made bread, watched tv—so much tv—spent time with our cohort, and found ways to be distracted, like a prolonged shiva. Many could not find distractions from poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, violence, and isolation. One loss, one name, one “shiva” after another across all religions, a sense of overwhelming loss and grief. Are you there G-d? It’s me, Glenda…it’s us, your children.
We turned to action, 7:00 pm tributes to our front-line workers, delivering food, supporting charities, speaking out against injustice and inequity, lending a shoulder, praying, supporting the mourners, seeking out ways to find comfort. And yet, so much was lost, hearts broken, a historical time that will shape us all and our futures. We need a miracle G-d. One for these ages. When I see the pink in the early evening February sky, I recall my mother saying she found You in the magic of those colors and soon the darkness of winter would turn into the rebirth of spring. I know you are there.
I was recently given the book, Are You There G-d? It’s Me, Margaret, and have been reading it aloud enjoying the simplicity of her conversations with G-d and finding meaning in the complexities of a relationship with G-d. Finding comfort in G-d, however that looks to each of us, is a miracle. And as for the big ask, G-d has shown us that we are the miracles. Taking shape in the compassionate and tired eyes of a nurse, teacher, or doctor, the brilliant minds working to cure this virus, the tireless care takers, clergy, grocers, delivery drivers, and countless others and by choosing love and kindness. While there has been and will be great loss, the future once again holds the excitement of first kisses, the return of the embrace, mad dashes through sprinklers, and the brilliant colors in the sky that truly are signs of hope and healing.