It feels as though the elevator is on pause, and I don’t quite know what is next. A broad expanse between the “normal” life I knew before the corona virus and the next new “normal” stretches before me.
It is the loss of well-worn routines: going into work, meeting up with friends, celebrating holidays, and going to the movies or out to a play. The many varied things I do that make up my days and weeks are now on hold or done quite differently. I know this place. I met it first when my mother died, and it has visited me many times since. It’s not just death that can put me here but big life-quakes too, like divorce, losing a job or a hurricane that takes everything. This time it’s the corona virus, which is at once a personal and a collective experience. We are all holding our breath, waiting for the specter to pass so we can go back to the business of life.
I interviewed Dr. Ann Marie Chiasson, MD for the When You Die documentary series to be released later this year. She told me that when a loved one is dying family members often become fearful; that our sense of who we are is so deeply interwoven with one another it is hard to imagine the future without this person, because this person is a part of us. We are wife, daughter, mother and friend. Without that reference point, who are we?
And here death has something to teach us about living. Whether we lose a parent, a friend or a routine, we lose a piece of who we know ourselves to be, and this too can make us afraid. Dr Chiasson told me,
“I think we have to really look at the fear of our own death and what we will we do after they are gone. Once we look at that, we visualize the next holiday or the next anniversary without that person there. Once we can really feel that, then we can be present to the death. And it’s quite a beautiful process.”
The in-between time is a transformational space. It is the space after a death and before we give birth to our next way of being.
In this time of the corona virus and the death of our former life, we may face terrible realities, but we also face amazing possibilities. If we can be present to what is happening, we can also ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. As the world strips down to basics around us, maybe we have a chance to ask what is really important to us now? What do we want our future to hold? What do we want to give birth to? As the great song writer/poet/bard Leonard Cohen said:
“There is a crack, a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.”
What is the light showing you?