By Rev. Carol Bodeau
It’s been a rough year. First a pandemic, then powerful protests of systemic injustice, rioting, political division and turmoil, and a world that some days seems to have gone quite mad. And these are just the national and global crises. For many of us, added to the stress, uncertainty and upset of our larger world situation, there are much more personal struggles and losses: economic challenges related to COVID-19, family members and friends who may be sick with this frightening illness, and the challenges of trying to stay close to the people we love, while also staying safe.
Last week, we lost one of our most beloved Westside family, Sue Draper. Sue held more positions of importance at Westside than I can possibly name, many of which preceded my arrival in our community. But I don’t really need to list all the things Sue did, because the truth is that what mattered about her was who she was. Sue was enthusiasm, practicality, straightforward clarity, unflinching dedication and commitment, and steadfast cheerfulness. She always, always found a positive angle on things. I can hear her voice saying, “Well, that’s all right…” She is one of many great losses this year, after Mary Donovan and Bill Calhoun in the winter, and I have to admit that this is all hitting me hard.
I understand that things change, that they will do so, and that they must do so. Sue, incredibly practical as she was, talked with me about that very thing only a few months ago as she updated her last wishes paperwork and talked about protecting her daughters from having to struggle at the time of her eventual death. But even if we know change is inevitable, even if we know we can’t control the outcome of everything that affects us, it doesn’t mean that feels comfortable, or easy. Right now, there’s an awful lot of uncertainty in our world.
And I find that, one of the hardest things about it all, is not being able to truly grieve or struggle together. To not sit at potluck and share our sometimes widely divergent views over a shared meal. To not be physically one, despite our ideological multiplicity. The joke is that coffee hour is the UU form of communion, and….well, it is! We actually need communion, that ritual that symbolizes the joining of hearts and spirits beyond the ever-changing human mind and body. I am so very grateful to our internet technology, and our telephones, and even old-fashioned snail mail. But I miss you all. I miss those who have gone beyond this life, and I miss those still here who are not close enough to hug, to sit beside, and to just be with.
Our community is sacred. We will be together again, someday soon, but things will have changed. Let us never take it for granted; let us treasure every moment we have to connect with one another, in any way possible; and let us remember the incredible gifts we have already received from people who are both still with us, and who may have gone beyond us.
Communion: the word loosely means ‘together as one.’ Though we may be separate for now in body, and maybe often in thought or ways of expressing ourselves, let us remember to hold sacred the ways we are, and can be, together as one in heart and spirit.