Yet, My Heart Sings
By Peggy Phillips
My world has become so small. On a regular basis, I see only my husband as we share the same living space. Occasionally, I see a neighbor outside from a window, or wave to one from across the street. We might shout a greeting, “How are you doing over there?”, but that’s about it. There is no way to have a real conversation while trying to maintain a distance of six feet between people. Our social lives have become “screen time”, zoom calls replacing big noisy family dinners, FaceTime instead of morning coffee with a friend, but I’ve found nothing to replace the warm neck squeezes and soft cuddles that I miss from my grandchildren. I walk often, and we walk together sometimes, my husband and I, but with so much together time we both seem to enjoy our walks alone a little better. The parks and recreation areas are closed, so we are limited to our neighborhood. Lovely houses to look at, trees, gardens and flowers, spring is beautiful and in full bloom, but there are no hikes in the bright green, mustard-covered hills or through the redwoods on a path dappled with sunlight that both soothe and refresh my soul.
My world has contracted so and the feelings of isolation and disconnection are strong.
But beauty is there, and it finds me and brings me hope. In the midst of this devastation and great sorrow throughout the world, beauty appears and tears spring to my eyes. The love, bravery, care, and concern displayed by the frontline workers, despite their fears for their health and that of their families, overwhelms me and fills my heart with an almost uncontainable feeling of gratitude. Music is my emotional language and although I do not play, compose, or really sing, I feel it. As if on cue, sitting with my enormous unexpressed gratitude, this appeared online on Sunday, speaking to me and for me. A sometimes still-disenfranchised group singing to express their appreciation with such joy! My heart swelled as it filled with love.
This is a time of few shared experiences. I miss the pleasure of seeing a movie, a theater production, or attending a concert with others. But something drew me to watch the live performance of Andrea Bocelli in Milan. I was not there. I was not seated in a theatre or arena with a thousand others, bustling with anticipation and excitement. Yet, the experience of joining with three million people around the world sharing in that performance, at that exact moment in time, filled me with delight. To know that our family in France and friends in Germany, as well as my elderly mother sheltering in place only one mile away, were connected in this moment with the people living in the apartments and houses surrounding the cathedral in Milan, sharing the beauty of the music as Andrea Bocelli stepped outside to sing Amazing Grace! It felt almost miraculous and my heart overflowed with joy.
In this most unusual time of isolation, what fills and expands my heart most, however, is people’s generosity. GoFundMe pages filled with donations for the owners of our local shoe repair shop or the employee of the children’s resale shop on the corner, far exceeding the original goals. Those younger and healthy neighbors, including several teenagers who must be chomping at the bit to get out during this shelter-in-place order, responding to a desperate call from the Food Bank to help sort, pack, and distribute groceries. It’s the generosity of spirit, an open giving heart, that moves me most for it seems to inspire all the others. A young woman, a neighbor, a classmate of my youngest child from kindergarten through high school, was moved to share an invitation to “people of all walks of life” on Facebook to join the LDS church in a day of fasting on Good Friday in support of health workers and scientists. She recorded and shared this song “as a fitting prayer to accompany my fast”. My world view expands and my heart is filled as I listen to her beautiful voice, her good wishes for all people, and the invitation to support health workers and scientists in bringing an end to this suffering. While we may be isolated for now, we are not alone.
Bless your houses. May they be safe by night and day.
At a parent-teacher conference when she was in the sixth grade, Sister Mary Stella Maris told her parents that she was a good writer. She had written a completely fictitious essay about the family listening all together to a Leonard Bernstein concert. It might have been Swan Lake. With great joy and pride, after all it made them look pretty good, her parents repeated Sister’s compliment when they arrived home. She liked the idea and the memory of that moment recurred often, but easily distracted by seventh and eighth grades, high school, university, traveling, marriage, kids, and work, it took until sometime into her retirement before she really thought about putting pen to paper again. Today, she is happily distracted by her grandchildren and enjoys her weekly writing group, and every now and then writes something she hopes would please Sister Mary Stella Maris again.