Loss is no stranger in Schlegel Villages. As neighbours, as families, we are well acquainted with the feelings that accompany the changes of later life – loss of health, loss of home, loss of freedoms, loss of cherished friends.
But nothing could have prepared us for the losses that would come with a pandemic.
In addition to our usual losses, a new danger meant further loss of structure, activities, pleasures, relational contact, and even of life.
Too often, families and friends were not able to say goodbye in the way we all would have liked. And we lost our usual ways to grieve – we couldn’t come together, to share memories and food, to comfort and connect. While being thankful for the creativity and flexibility that has made virtual Celebrations of Life possible in some villages, we are missing our traditions.
In this space, we honour all those who lived their last days in our villages this past year, and especially those whose days were shortened by the virus.
None of us knows how or when we will die – but we imagine, and our expectations were rudely interrupted by this pandemic. Because the last days of those we loved were different than expected, we may feel cheated, disappointed. We can’t get that sacred time back, and that is upsetting.
Grief is love that has lost its object. It is important to acknowledge that grief, and to honour those we have lost – with our respect, our love, our regrets.
Those whose lives came to an end during this pandemic time will be remembered not only as our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends, but as those whose last days coincided with a time in world history when we all wished things were different. As we wrung our hands, our hearts were wrung of love we longed to live.
Alongside our frustration and sorrow, though, are memories of good times. When we think of those who were with us a year ago, we remember with a smile. We are grateful that our lives touched, and we remember their faces, their names. For those who are family members reading this, we acknowledge your loss. We too miss your loved one, and we miss sharing life with you in our villages.
So how will we move forward from here? The surest way for grief to heal is for love to stay alive. We will continue to love those we have lost. We will love what they loved, what we loved together… and our love will find a place to go. Our hearts will heal.
For many of us, our faith heritage assures us that life does not end with what we can know, see, and experience here. Life continues beyond this life in some way that is unknowable but real.
Others are content to know that life is complete – we are part of something bigger – and that the life of the world goes on.
While a piece of our hearts has gone with them, those we have loved and lost have left us a legacy of inspiration - lives well lived, impossible circumstances accepted, and freedom ultimately claimed.
May our hearts be held gently and securely as we grieve, and as we go on.