I was ten years old when Mr. Boston came to live with us. He was an old family friend from our home country of Guyana in South America and the closest I recall to a grandfather. My actual grandfather, John Blair died when I was too young to remember his stern demeanor and strapping stature kept alive in old sepia toned photographs and the retelling of stories by his children, my mother being one of them.
As we journey to Easter 2020 on a road made bumpy by a global pandemic, potholed with 97,000 dying around us, skid-marked with 1.6 million people infected and those numbers rising, rising as sure as the sun rises each morning to sit high in an unencumbered sky. There is the cracked cement of near economic collapse on this road, unprecedented job loss, a medical system taxed beyond measure and a world brought to its knees in unfathomable ways in a matter of weeks.
Take a breath. Take a long deep breath. We are all acknowledging the incredulousness of these moments.
We are asked to quarantine at home, a privilege in the developed world. Not so much in large swathes of the globe where starvation may kill before a nefarious virus. Frenzy, fear, chaos, testing sites and refrigerated trucks holding the mounting dead bombard us hourly, if we let it, and acts of true kindness pepper this drama we are all living through. Our faces are covered with makeshift masks as we venture out, saving precious PPE for overburdened hospital teams, fatigued to exhaustion.
Zoom meetings have become ubiquitous as virtual is the new normal and physical distancing the echo each day. Zoombombing has also become a real thing. New realities. Shuttered businesses, shuttered places of worship, shuttered lives, where is God in this mayhem?
These are the times that test our faith. Breathe. These are the pungent moments that show us exactly who we are and how we show up. Breathe. Is the world ending? Are these the end-times prophesied about? Have we been here before? Locusts and world wars, disease, famine and epidemics, violence and history rife with all manner of injustice and brutality. Breathe.
Corona is a svelte killer, an ornate, spike protein attaching to humanity and doing cataclysmic damage. Lines are being drawn in our streets and towns, borders etched out, a wall for Mexico has taken a back seat while states divide and jockey for equipment. Ventilators are desperately needed and why are some not even working when they arrive? Who lives? Who dies? Who decides? This is not a time to be over 60 with pre-existing conditions. It doesn’t seem the time to be young either.
Take a breath. Take a long deep breath. We are on the journey to Easter. A road we’ve walked before. There’s a Maundy Thursday before the crucifixion of Good Friday. Didn’t we all see the palms from last Sunday strewn on our road? Salvation is coming, but there is a blood-soaked sacrifice before redemption on an Easter morning sunrise.
Who among us would have been in the crowd, chanting with the masses for the cross hanging of a Palestinian rabbi? It was a solemn night of shadows before nails pierced lean wrists and taunt ankles and a crown of thorns bruised a sacred head with eyes on God. Would we, too, have screamed “blasphemy” instead of professing miracles, parables and good works? An itinerant preacher coming with a new gospel of love for one another, even those unlike us, where would we have been in that crowd on that dusty road?
So, Mr. Boston taught me as a ten-year-old what sacred space was. He had a neat, sparse room in our basement with a small nightstand next to his bed where he kept a Bible, a glass of water and a candle. Even as a curious child, I knew I couldn’t barge into his room any kinda way. I didn’t have the language then, but I knew there was something unusual about his ritual and his gait, something magical about the way this old man, and he was always old, moved through the world. He was a Rosicrucian. Of course I didn’t know what that meant, but he was devout and prayerful; I knew that. He believed in God and his ability to commune daily with God. He was powerful.
He told me I was able to speak to God the same way he was speaking to me. That God heard all my prayers and my angst, my aspirations and my fears, my disappointments, everything, anything. God was a friend when school mates, colleagues, partners, family - faltered and disappointed. I believed him; he gave me the most outstanding gift ever. It has colored my life in poignant ways to this very moment. It’s a special thing to have audience with God and have God answer your prayers, even if it’s for an E-Z bake oven at Christmas or for a bully to stop her assaults.
As I grew up, my conversations with God morphed and matured and I came to fully realize how God can take and hold all we bring and lay at feet planted solidly on a throne overseeing all manner of things.
Our televisions and smart devices tell us often how severely Corona is infiltrating, but there are thousands of Good Samaritans in this narrative of sick and dying people along a contaminated road. So many are stepping up to work, to donate, to feed strangers, to play music and applaud those on the frontlines saving lives and FaceTiming the dying.
If Mr. Boston was right, and I could talk to God just like I’m talking to you, I’m wondering, “God are you listening; are you seeing the tragic toll with no apex in sight? Do you see us mourning our dead and pondering what comes next? It’s as though the earth opened its jaws and swallowed so many of us whole. Some of us survive, but the earth is still eating, chewing bodies and leaving bones. God of all things, show yourself to us in ways that we can see.”
We take a breath in, a deep, cleansing breath. The road is long and we are all weary from this Lenten journey plagued with microscopic assassins killing seamlessly, viciously, even randomly. These are turbulent times testing us to our core. Where is that perpetual light at the end of all dark nights of the soul? The bluest midnight lingers as we wait for a pale glimpse of dawn on our road. God remains on the throne.
Mr. Boston died on Good Friday when I was sixteen years old. My mother was afraid to tell me, but he had prepared me well. There was peace on the other side of this life. He instilled, embodied that in the few, short years he lived with our family. I remember weeping, but not from devastation and utter loss, but from a melancholy void knowing he was no longer on this side of heaven.
In our collective journey to Easter, forty days traveling, searching, asking, lamenting, weeping, worrying, believing, trusting, accepting, embracing, understanding, distancing and connecting, there is an end in sight. We are all journeying together, along a rugged road to redemption and revelation, real sorrow laced in the crevices and cracks. The whole world is walking this road to a determined salvation, a solid peace and a strengthening of the soul.
Many will survive to tell a new generation what happened when we weren’t really watching, tell how the world changed forever when we didn’t expect it, tell how diversity and love were embraced, grace was personified and death was not the last brave thing tens of thousands did when they took final breaths.
May the redemption of the Easter rising transform us all.