When we received our final coronavirus vaccinations recently, my husband asked what I wanted to do when it was safe to go places, see people, and return to ‘normal’ life.
“I want to hug my Mom,” I said with no hesitation.
Like everyone else, my husband and our three kids (and their significant others) have sacrificed human touch, travel, dinners out, even in-person worship in our parish church. Even though we take great care to remain vigilant against the virulent coronavirus, we welcome and treasure family gatherings and the chance to venture outside our little home.
It has been 14 months since I’ve touched my mother, who will be 90 years old in August. During that time, she was hospitalized twice – and suffered heart trouble and COVID-19 – and spent months in skilled-nursing care.
We missed two Easters, many birthdays, two Mother’s Days, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We all have missed so much togetherness and so many meaningful events in the many months we’ve been isolated from each other – weddings, funerals, baptisms, holidays – the very things that give our lives meaning and depth.
Mom was isolated, eating all her meals alone in her apartment, for much of that time. She lost 30 pounds due to depression. So for our family, the end of pandemic isolation means the return of Sunday family dinners, careful but joy-filled summer barbecues with extended family and friends, and a long-delayed trip up the coast of California.
While we begin to enjoy those heretofore routine gatherings, it is fitting that during this Marian month of May, Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to pray for an end to the worldwide pandemic. The Holy Father is supporting an initiative that involves 30 Marian Shrines from throughout the globe.
In a time that continues to be uncertain as COVID-19 and its variants threaten, we must be careful in returning to our previously active and interactive lives. We also must remember that others continue to suffer the pandemic’s ravages.
As Pope Francis noted during Holy Week, we must “meet the faces of so many brothers and sisters in difficulty.
“Let us not pass by, let us allow our hearts to be moved with compassion, and let us draw near,” Francis said. He dedicates much of his papacy to drawing attention to those living on society’s margins, including the homeless, the poor and migrants.
Pope Francis worries that many have moved ahead while the majority remains behind, and he warns against responding to the pandemic with selfish indifference that leads to “discarding the poor and sacrificing those left behind on the altar of progress.” We must redouble our prayers on behalf of a world that remains suffering.
I fervently hope that I never again take for granted the simple pleasures of a spontaneous dinner out, a matinee at the movie theater, a visit in our home with our dearest family and friends. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the value of our families, friends, and faith.
We must savor the blessings of our new freedoms and our good health and thank Providence for watching over ourselves, our families, Church, and fellow men.
Indeed, as we approach the end of this holy Easter season we acknowledge that we are blessed with a kind of resurrection of our own.