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As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

The photos catch me off guard, intruding on my day by popping up on my screen through Facebook’s Memories feature. “What were you doing on this exact day in prior years?” the proffered memory photos scream, reminding me of what once was.

And—I look, really look. In the photos from one year ago today, there is brightness, light, laughter.

It was a seemingly ordinary—but nonetheless wonderful—day; a new friend I’d met in my neighbourhood had come to my home for lunch, bringing dishes from her native India. My pet lovebird Vivi had perched on my shoulder, curiously watching as we shared food and stories alike. My friend and I were comfortably together without any fear of contagion. Nary a mask in sight, we sat close together, our faces wreathed in smiles.

How normal it was back then to have a friend over; a world where it was against the law to allow friends or even my parents into my own home to share lunch was simply unfathomable.         

There is a joyful innocence in those photos; a complete lack of awareness of the pandemic that would soon scourge nearly every corner of the earth.

On that wintery day last year, my happy face not only showed a complete naivety of the soon-approaching pandemic, but also bore no knowledge of the tsunami of grief that would crash into my world just four days hence when one of my closest, most precious loved ones would enter the gates of Heaven. Or of the tsunami’s second wave that would follow four months later when another close family member would also die.

My eyes revealed no knowledge borne from agony of what it is to experience a deep, life-changing, spirit-transforming grief. Sure, I’d known grief and much physical pain up to that point in my life due to my disabling medical issues and other challenges, but the grief that followed these tsunamis of death was the kind that irrevocably altered who I am at my deepest level.

Although in the year since the first tsunami struck I’ve learned to laugh and smile again to the point that even my dear husband says I seem much the same as I did prior to the deaths of my beloved ones, I know I’m different. Grief is now entwined with the DNA in my body’s every cell.

And yet, it is out of this deep grief born of tragedy and pain that new life has begun to grow in the form of tiny seedlings of compassion and understanding. A newfound ability to more genuinely empathize with those who hurt and cry out for connection while living through their own grief, loss, and pain.

Understanding and connection, this grief journey has taught me, are yearned for by each of us, especially as we face the pains, losses, and griefs that inevitably are part of life on this earth.

We all at numerous points in our lives face both small and big struggles—bad days, car trouble, the loss of family members, health challenges, relationship angst, breakups, job or school stress, parenting issues, trauma, attacks, racism, ableism, ageism, and much more.

It is a world where countless people are crying out for someone to simply be there beside them on their journey or perhaps to just show a little kindness on their hardest days.

We never truly know what is being experienced and felt by the people we see and interact with as we go about our days—the coworkers and friends we meet with over Zoom, the harried woman in front of us in the grocery checkout, the pastor we watch from the computer as she preaches to unoccupied pews in a church empty save for a few elders. The masked youth sitting across the waiting room at the dentist’s office with a sullen expression in his eyes. The smiling elderly neighbour waving from across the street. But, we can safely assume they all wish to be treated with love, dignity, understanding, and gentleness, regardless of what their situation is.

As Christians we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet, to share his heart of love in very practical ways.

May we practically heed this calling with those God brings across our paths, as out of and through our own pain God plants and germinates seeds of love, understanding, and compassion.

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