I was leaving for work on my creaky old bike, which now you can hear on our vacated streets. I spotted my neighbor holding a newborn, seated in a folding chair in a sliver of sunshine.
“Congratulations,” I said, without rushing over. I would see her from no closer than 20 feet. She thanked me and said she was sunning her baby, hoping to keep the baby’s bilirubin down and avoid a trip to the doctor. Her baby was born just five days before.
Then she asked me how’s your family, and I paused for a second. Do I share my heavy news in this moment of joy?
“My father died,” I told her. “Complications from a surgery.” My voice faltered as I finished those words.
Sadness and grief from a fresh wound revealed itself, in her eyes, on her face. Just a few months before she lost her mother, she knew how I felt and was sorry for my loss. Surely I would have hugged her if things had been different, but we kept our distance as we shared our pain.
Thirty minutes later I arrived at my office, thousands of square feet with nary a soul. And there in my inbox was a message from my neighbor. Could she make us a meal and leave it at our door?
For those of you with children, can you even imagine cooking for someone with a newborn in tow? It’s a small, heroic kindness I’ll never forget as long as I live.
Grieving in the time of COVID-19 adds a level of strangeness that’s hard to convey. Will the virus recede and allow for the mourning with family and friends that would comfort so much? The future is murky, and you just can’t make plans.
In the shadow of the pandemic, we turn our attention to digging in the dirt, cultivating fragile but resilient life. They say planting a seed is an act of faith. How improbable it seems that seedlings will emerge, searching for the sun, thirsty for the rain.
The #CoopGardens movement invites us to take the leap of faith, to heal ourselves and the planet simultaneously, to believe in regeneration and have hope for the future. It asks us to see what we have, seek what we need and figure out how we can help.
If we didn’t know before, the pandemic has told us exactly what our deepest needs are. Food and water for sustenance, shelter for safety and one another for comfort. We are all suffering, and many are grieving; we have to lend a hand whenever we can.
I’d like to dedicate this issue to the memory of my neighbor Joanna’s mother, and to her daughter Elizabeth. May the sun keep you and your family healthy and warm. To the memory of everyone lost to the virus, and those who carry on without them. To my mom and the memory of my dad. To everyone who has taken the time to offer a tender word, cook a meal, send a card or make a phone call to someone in distress.
It gives one hope, like a seedling in an egg carton.