So Far Apart and In This Together
"I am only one
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do
the something that I can do."
—Edward Everett Hale
Everyone's cries sound different on the phone. Over the phone I cannot see how their faces change, how their bodies tighten as they try to hold back tears and relax when they finally surrender and let the tears fall. That’s what I’m used to.
Now, I listen over the phone as children play in the background, as dishes are washed, as the woman I’m speaking to turns on her blinker so she can park her car and cry. When I talk to someone on the phone, they continue to do whatever they were doing before I called. Their surroundings stay the same while their life breaks open in grief. We don’t have the comfort of the family room in the hospital—a neutral space we can share, and they can then leave forever—to share a horrific moment. Now, they’re at home and I’m in my room—the same room I will try to sleep in tonight. Everything changes, and nothing changes.
I never thought it could be possible to be “work-sick.” I miss my desk. I miss the elevators in the hospital. I even miss my commute. I miss all the little annoyances that separated my work from my home. Without those boundaries of time and space, I feel my heart struggling to maintain boundaries.
I tell the woman crying on phone, “This is my number; call me anytime.” I wouldn’t have done that six months ago. But I do now. The boundaries are so wide and so thin. We are all so far apart and yet we’re in this together. I stay on the phone and I cry with you. I hang up the phone and I pray for you.
Every day things change. Every week things change. I miss the way things were, and I know they’ll never really be the same. And yet, while everything is still so tender and uncertain, I am grateful. I’m grateful that this is my job. I’m grateful that you picked up the phone. I’m grateful that I get to live another day, and I get to do it with you.
That Which Is Holy and Loving and True, hear our prayers: prayers for healing, kindness, resiliency, and courage. Prayers that our bodies and our spirits will survive this time of unimaginable loss. Thank you for giving us each other. Thank you for giving us hope. Amen.