January 28, 2022 Remarks by Jonathan Shively, Executive Director, Fox Valley Hands of Hope
Many of us are feeling overwhelmed with sorrow and sadness. Loss under the best of circumstances, surrounded by all the most generous, patient, and purposeful supports is hard. But the pandemic has wrenched many of those supports away, while death continues to assert its power.
Last night I was listening to the story of a new friend who shared that her older sister died from Covid. My friend grew thoughtful and sadness moved in behind her eyes as she told me how the death was unexpected, too soon, such a lonely experience for all the family. These stories are repeated over and over, a thousand-fold right here in our own county. The immediate loss is my friend’s, but really the loss is all of ours. The sadness and sorrow covers all of us in waves.
Our clients at Fox Valley Hands of Hope come to us with heartbreaking stories of loss. Some of those losses are represented on our own memorial light display with tags naming loved ones: Ashley, Alberto, Marlon, Chris, Veronica, Matthew, Bill, Larry, Mom, Nana: We love you.
When grief is deep and all-consuming, it takes courage to seek a new way forward. It is risky to ask for help. It takes self-compassion to hold hope alongside our sorrow. It takes time and space to endure sorrow, and time and space to embrace future possibilities.
Unfortunately, we don’t provide much time or space in our culture to grieve. We distract and suppress and disassociate from our grief. We rush back toward a normal that isn’t there.
But grief doesn’t just go away. Like squeezing jello, it oozes out in unpredictable ways, reminding us of dreams, hopes and expectation that won’t be fulfilled.
James Taylor speaks of an unexpected loss in his famous song Fire and Rain
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again
To grieve well is to wrestle with those lost futures, and to re-open to the possibility of new ones.
In the midst of our sadness and sorrow, we yearn for hope to break in. Which it does, if we’re able to see it.
- Sometimes hope just looks like taking the next step; getting out of bed one more time; showing up for your kids; finishing a small task at work; taking the next breath
- Sometimes it looks like asking for help, like giving a friend a call and saying I need you right now, or being the friend who says “I am here for you, whatever you need.”
- Sometimes hope looks like giving FVHH a call and asking “will you walk with me on this journey” – Adriana and Erik are here with me today and have info on how to reach us if you’re looking for grief support or would like to add a tag to the display
- Sometimes hope looks like starting over, trying something new, allowing a fresh possibility to enter your mind, your emotion, your heart.
- Sometimes hope simply looks like kindness, to ourselves, to our family, friend, neighbor and even a stranger
- Sometimes hope is sitting still and waiting
Hope is of course not the same as a guarantee; it’s about unrevealed possibilities for the next minute, the next day, the next year, or next generation. In my religious tradition we would say that hope is a recognition that God is not done with us yet.
Hope does not prevent us from feeling sadness and sorrow, it does not magically take today’s pain away, it does not ignore the 1000 covid deaths nor the hundreds of other losses stirring our grief over the last two years.
And hope is not the opposite of sadness and sorrow; it is more like the natural extension of the love we still have to share, the life we still have to live, the relationships we still have to nurture, the difference we have yet to make. Ironically, many times the very things that we grieve become the roots of hope.
Today through this ceremony of acknowledgement and remembrance, we extend our hands, our hands of hope, toward one another. We stretch out the roots of this community, providing one another with the strength to grieve honestly, the patience to love compassionately, and the kindness to journey together through our sadness and sorrow into a hope-full future.