Someone we loved died during the COVID-19 quarantine. Unfortunately, this has become a very common experience for so many people across the globe and in our diocese. This unique period in time has afforded us and so many others a new way of experiencing the process of dying with our loved ones. Although the circumstances that surround the dying process are very different, the graces we received on the journey remained the same. The gift of time – from death, to funeral, to burial and final goodbye – has given us the opportunity to ponder the positives and the negatives of this process. After much reflection and prayer, it became very clear that saying goodbye to a loved one during COVID-19 closely parallels Christ’s journey, witnessed through the Stations of the Cross.
As Jesus was condemned, so was our loved one who could not have visitors or contact with the outside world due to COVID-19.
As Jesus was forced to bear his cross, so was our loved one who was dealing with her illness in isolation.
As Jesus fell the first time, so did our loved one’s spirit fall after weeks and weeks with no direct contact with her loved ones or friends.
As Jesus met His mother for a brief moment, reminding Him of all the love she gave Him in His lifetime, so, too, was our loved one reminded of how much she was loved through a FaceTime message, a sign outside her window or a kiss blown through the glass.
As Jesus was assisted by Simon of Cyrene, so, too, was our loved one helped by the health care workers available to her on a daily basis.
As Veronica wiped the face of Jesus out of care and compassion for Him, so today do our nurses try to ease the pain and suffering of the dying.
As Jesus falls a second time, so, too, our loved one fell deeper into the darkness that accompanies illness and isolation.
As Jesus passes the women who were crying out of empathy for Him and His suffering, so, too, did we weep for our inability to see or touch our loved one before she left this world.
As Jesus falls a third time, and the weight of the cross and the suffering becomes too much for Him to bear as a human being, so, too, is the separation too much for our loved one who was forced to bear her pain alone.
As Jesus’ garments are stripped, and we see the last piece of human dignity taken from Him, so, too, we watched our loved one become entirely dependent on strangers to care for her.
As Jesus is nailed to the cross and His suffering peaks as the last bit of life leaves Him, so, too, our loved one endured the last of the pain and accepted goodbye.
As Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb, peace finally surpasses all else. We feel sorrow and relief as our loved one journeys to eternal life, no longer in need of the earthly body.
Just as Jesus’ life, suffering and death were necessary for the resurrection to occur, so, too, is the suffering our loved one endured before peacefully leaving this world and entering the next.
We cannot change our current circumstances, we can only face the despair around us with hope – hope that gives our messy, imperfect, broken lives new meaning and helps us move toward acceptance. We will never get back the last kiss, hug or “I love you” because our loved one’s physical body is gone. But we do have the loving memories, phone conversations, Skype video and Facetime messages to hold us over until we meet again. In all that was taken away in the grieving process during COVID-19, there was much given to us as well. We just had to look a little harder to find it.
In loving memory of Donna C. Daignault, RIP
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, visit these websites for some helpful resources and support:
Article By Andrea Hoisl and Hank Daignault