COLUMN: Coming back to life

Published 8:17 am Thursday, April 7, 2022

There is a fresh feeling in the air. At my feet, the bulbs that had lain sleeping in the cold earth have awakened, bravely sending up green shoots to test the air. Above my head, the sun offers some warmth, and I lift my face to feel its rays on my skin. This feeling is partly hope in the annual promise of butter-yellow daffodils and sweet green grass. It has to do with rebirth, but it’s something more.

A few days ago, I felt it again. I attended a potluck meal for the first time in more than two years. Setting out the pots of soup and bowls of salad felt like a great privilege. Even standing in line was exciting. After eating, I sat back and looked around at the dozens of people munching and visiting, and I could hardly believe it. Was this a waking dream? This feeling is partly happiness that things are returning to normal, but it’s something more.

Returning to normal is a state that we have hoped for, but I didn’t expect normal to feel so different. Upon reflection, this is a natural thing. We are not the same as we used to be; going through the pandemic has changed us. We carry our new selves into the future to see “normal” through new eyes, and with new sensitivities.

How have we been changed? Many of us have been marred by the tragic loss of loved ones to COVID-19. We may struggle to cope with the empty spaces they left behind. Others of us have suffered through sickness, separation and depression, from which we still bear scars. All of us at some point felt the abrupt halt to our way of life and the subsequent fear, confusion and sadness.

The indeterminate cessation of daily activities gave some of us the pause we needed to reevaluate our lives. We made positive changes, using this unique era for a personal restart. Some of us built stronger relationships with family members during shutdowns and quarantines, playing games and taking walks. Some of us rediscovered the outdoors and the fact we can actually talk to our neighbors – even if from across the street. We have practiced resourcefulness and resiliency.

So we are not the same people we used to be. After going through a collective death of sorts, we are coming back to life. This sensation is something new: it is a type of resurrection. To resurrect is to restore a dead person to life. This marvel crosses a threshold beyond words, beyond hope, beyond happiness – it puts us smack in the presence of the divine.

Even though the ruby-red tulips come up every year, this year it feels different. And I am thankful for this new awareness, but I suspect it will wear off. My great wonder at this sacred return to the activities, places and people I love may fade, and I may take them all for granted once again. Until then, I will pray to keep these fresh eyes and this awakened heart. This life is fragile, and we never know when things may change again. With a bit more understanding, I look forward to the actual resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come.

 

Chrissie Kaufmann represents the YMCA of Greater Michiana.