It is a Strange Time to Talk About Blessings

Photo of girl on a swing
Instagram capture
Canvas art

My sister died from Covid-19. My sister struggled with prescription painkiller addiction most of her life. It wasn’t her addiction that made our relationship difficult. It was all the deception created to sustain it. My role in her life had become “emergency contact.” It has been 8 months since her death and it still doesn’t feel real. Even after I received her ashes. Even after I received a truckload of her belongings. I touched everything that had been in her studio apartment. The memories. The clothes. The dreams. The books. The treasured greeting cards. The photos. They left me aching for what might have been – for her, for us. The day President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris stood in front of those lights lining the Reflecting Pool was the first time since her death that I felt her country cared about her death. A death that didn’t have to happen.

I said when she died that maybe she was the lucky one. That she wouldn’t have to live through the traumas of this pandemic. I think she wasn’t lucky, but I don’t know if she’d have survived the hourly assaults on our mental and emotional health that have made up these months. From the summer’s protests for Black lives that turned violent (often because of police actions) to the assault on our Capitol by white supremacist terrorists, from the stream of death announcements to the text messages from loved ones, “I tested positive” – this has been the most painful time of my life.

Yet. I’ve found more spiritual growth during this time than any other. I am a painter. One who hasn’t painted much the past 10 years because I’ve put my energy into the nonprofit I founded. Because we are working from home, I have no commute time. That, and a lack of anything else to do outside our home (I’ve only been in a building that wasn’t my home 5 times in 11 months), has provided me with hours of time in my studio. And those hours have saved my life. I’ve created more work in the past 10 months than the past 10 years. And I’ve found my creative spirit again.

And then there’s our pandemic housemate. My spouse Ruth and I are 61 and 60 respectively. We’re pretty active, but I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka Chronic Fatigue). That limits my physical activities. Our housemate is 28. She was my student back in 2006 to 2010 when I taught high school art. She’s always been part of my life since her graduation. She was cat-sitting for us last March and when we returned from our trip, I invited her to stay during the lockdown. We thought that would be a month, tops. It’s almost a year and we anticipate several more months. She helps with cooking and cleaning but most of all, she brings us her youthful joy. She is a blessing.

It is a strange time to talk about blessings, but I feel surrounded by them.