Thursday, December 31, 2020

Reflections on 2020, Prayers and Wishes for 2021

About 2 am on New Year's Eve day, I left the computer and set my alarm for “early,” not wanting to miss a minute of productivity on the last day of the year. That’s how holidays flow for freelancers.

You work when you can and when you can’t, you figure out what you can work on next until more work appears. I’ve been blessed with work to the point that on these “holidays,” I am still found at the computer, my choice, my pleasure.

So when the day unfolded, I had no idea what awaited me that would bring me such excitement and amazement.

Throughout the holidays, friends-as-family have been abundant in reaching out and keeping tabs on me, how I’m doing, making sure I never feel alone.

I call this a blessing—and I’ve had so many of them during the holidays this year. This morning my checklist only had two items on it, but the text message that came through added a third, which is not unusual. That blessing would come later in the day.

The year 2020 has been what my late friend, Dr. Thyra Plass, used to call “a whale of a year.” Meaning open to interpretation, but at the minimum—overwhelming. As the past 365 days have passed, the mere mention of the year 2020 causes people to wrinkle their faces, as they jump immediately to people and things we have lost in our lives. That’s natural as for many of us the ravages of COVID-19 have impacted us all directly and indirectly.

Children have been resilient in their willingness to adapt to new kinds and forms of education; my favorite 8.5-yr-old pal shared, earlier this summer, that he was not going to have a traditional birthday party this time due to ‘coronavirus’ and didn’t have a single ounce of regret in his voice, only acceptance. Said the entire word better than most professional news anchors, too.

At the time I recall thinking about how I wished others were more stalwart about the limitations our world had been dealt to combat an unanticipated foe. His ability to cope with disappointment about his party hit me like a ton of bricks…natural leaders are born and this is how they grow up. This year we’ve seen leadership of all styles from exemplary to horrible and at the end of the year, all any of us want now for the next year are essentially empathy, kindness, and health and safety for all whom we love.

That’s not much to ask for and we also need it as much as want it. Thus, 2021 is welcome and as everyone scrambles to find black-eyed peas to cement the deal, so will our hearts seek out validation for understanding how we all managed to make it through last year.

The first line of defense includes our medical and safety emergency front line teams—from doctor’s offices with gifted nurses to hospitals and specialists, to police, fire, and 911 teams, our community has been fortunate in leadership, including Dr. Seth Sullivan and our municipal leaders in Bryan, College Station, and Brazos County, who stood together in unity, addressed issues early and head-on and always gave us reason to trust in their word, and we followed their directions for the most part.

All year long we’ve seen and heard of neighbors’ kindnesses to each other, the amazing things that our community has done in collecting food for the Brazos Food Pantry, serving hot meals to our healthcare providers, making sure children had meals at school with continuity, and our own BTU utility gave us 15% discounts two months in a row (at least) to help with the costs to survive COVID while jobs were eliminated, reduced, or strained.

Overall, we have emerged stronger and even more empathetic as ever. It’s not safe to take chances and we are still safest at home, but our spirits have been uplifted with every telling of tales of kindness shown on a regular basis. It’s one of the reasons, of many, I remain here as my home. In 2021, we will continue to make progress towards achieving health and returning life to normal for as many people as we possibly can, because we all work together to do that. People take time for each other here, and one dear friend is constantly my inspiration as I see what all she does for so many.

Other friends are strong in their faith, others strong in their actions, more are strong in prayers for those in need, and on and on it goes. We all have our special gifts to offer and every action and gift means something to others. Meeting the needs…that’s what you all do for all of us here.

It was close to noon when I scanned Facebook and saw a post from a young woman who was reaching out to anyone who happened to be reading—it was on a private group page that will stay private for purposes of maintaining anonymity but that person, whose name was previously unknown to me, posted that she had reached her very lowest point and felt close to ending her time on earth, in need of a professional to talk to today but not knowing how to find one.

Within minutes, group members posted phone numbers, prayers, two strangers said she should go to the ER and she could private message them her phone number and they would meet her there so she wouldn’t be alone.

New Year’s Eve; the end of a year in which despair was an operative emotion, where depression was so common none of us want to admit it was real to us, but it was, and here is an honest soul reaching out. The answers were overwhelmingly positive and uplifting and one more time, love was shared, hope was offered, and faith flowed freely. A final update on the post tonight confirmed that things were better for her and that good care was being given. Prayers were answered and it was the miracle of the day. Turns out it wasn’t the only miracle of the day.

Later in the day I received notice that a family whose loved one they’d been expecting to pass away today had occurred, and we made arrangements to meet this afternoon. Before I left the house, the strangest feeling came over me. I had 3 Russell Stover chocolate candy bars on my dining table, remaining from stuffing little cherubs’ stockings. I looked over at them and thought about taking them with me, but I couldn’t figure out why. I ignored the impulse and headed to the garage. At the laundry room, I paused, turned around and shook my head as I picked up the candy bars and put them into my jacket pocket and off I went.

In my five years as a celebrant, I have never taken anything but my pen and notebook to meet with a family. So, as I walked in and greeted the family members, I had no control over what I said or did as I reached into my jacket and pulled out the candy bars and said, “These are for you!” and I had no more wondered why I offered up the candy or where those words had come from, but I had my answer in the blink of an eye. The looks on their faces said it all. “He loved chocolate” they both said in unison!! “It was his favorite thing!” The visit was wonderful as they shared the many reasons they loved him.

Then, on the way home I saw a text where a favorite memory had been shared on Facebook, which reminded me instantly of another God moment that had happened, January 2016, when my best friend was reflecting aloud about something she never knew about her parents' lives before she came along. We can all relate to not having asked enough questions while they were here.

Another of those fortuitous happenstances produced an answer in the blink of an eye as we went looking through some things. Presto, that answer appeared almost like magic, a supernatural gift, particularly as her parents had been gone for many years. Some five years later, that memory came up again today—a reminder that miracles happen every day, and that memories of those miracles are new once again, each time they come to mind.

I can only conclude that because so many of us have texted, Facebook IM’d, posted, talked on the phone, Skyped and Zoomed through 2020 about how we couldn’t wait for this year to be over, that there is a collective sigh of relief as we turn the page onto 2021. But I’ve determined to remember all of the good things that happened as people gave from their hearts, of themselves, in faith, hope, and love for others as we banded together to survive.

The lessons of 2020 included the loss of several people close to us, unexpectedly, some from COVID and others gone too soon to cancer, as well as a few other reasons. Alumni from my childhood school (grades 1-12) remain close some 50+ years later on yet another Facebook group. This year we learned of the passing of some of our classmates, each one of us impacted by the loss of one of us. One especially stood out in our hearts and minds as he was the unofficial “Dean” of the group—a wise attorney and brilliant humorist named David. David had gone to Keystone School for 12 years and was another school "lifer." Brilliant, wise, and funny as heck, David always knew the right thing to say. He was a caring, brilliant attorney, and the word “wise” should be specially reserved for David.

It was memorable that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Rosh Hashanah, the “cusp” of the end of the year, symbolic in its own right as she is considered “a person of great righteousness.” David, a man of decided righteousness, died the next day, September 26. Surely, the Justice needed a solid right-hand attorney to work up responses to cases that would eventually find their way to us. Justice is ahead for 2021.

Throughout this year, I, and so many others in our community, have been blessed by the example of faith of a young 18-year-old woman, Rebecca, whose life serves more than just one purpose in this world. Coming from the loving family of faith she does, if ever you considered yourself a person of faith, you've been praying for her, joining in the legions of us who know her story.

For those who approach life from a different faith journey, just the fact that she is among us still today would cause you to understand that when logic, reason, and rational thought fail, faith fills that gap and explains so many things. Why this precious child and her family have had such a decade of suffering is a question I will one day demand answers to, should I gain entry into the great beyond.

It hurts to know what she has endured, and still, and yet, this child is an angel on Earth, sent in part to remind us that we must believe in things unseen, any way we can find our way to do so, because love and faith explain why science and medicine cannot.

Answered prayers are the only reason that makes sense, and her Earthly work is not done, not by a long shot. She plans on graduating from Harvard and all wise bets are on her to do just that, as she received word of her early admission already.

Yes, 2020 was a year we bid farewell to many in our lives whom we would prefer would still be here with us, anticipating the great things to come in 2021. They should be here with us to see how things turned out, to experience the good times that are hopefully on their way. It just emphasizes that each moment with those we care about, love, and call our family—real or extended—is precious and we should not take a moment for granted.

This coming year comes with no guarantees and indeed we face many challenges to come, but with faith comes hope, and in hope we find love, for real, for always. May each of us be blessed in all the ways that we need to succeed to have a healthy life. May we remember always to be kind. We may not know how others feel but we can have empathy, a quality long missing in 2020 as we all had plenty of reasons to miss it in some leadership, and may we seek and model truth in all that we say and do this year. Happy New Year!

Lots of love and thank you to each of you who have filled my life with joy, hope, and friendship,

Dawn Lee