Brickner: Looking for light

Today, COVID-19 haunts our holidays – job loss, illness, isolation and death. Can we find light?

Joan Brickner, Forum Readers Board

Over 25 years ago, I lost my mother. In the aftermath, my family fractured like a shattered mirror, especially after my father’s remarriage. Despite attempts at reconciliation, besides my father, I have barely spoken to my family in over 20 years.

I struggled with this second loss. But I found light in the dark. I shed the strict Pentecostalism that shamed girls who left home before marriage. I bought a condo. I traveled. I went out with friends – movie theaters, camping.

Probably the most healing came through service. For years, I volunteered at a mission in the notorious Cass Corridor of Detroit, famed for crime, drugs and homelessness. Amidst the reek of sweat and urine, I found joy: serving food, leading worship, or teaching a message. Loss led to a richer life.

Today, COVID-19 haunts our holidays – job loss, illness, isolation and death. Can we find light?

Make no mistake: during this time, I miss restaurants, theaters. I miss my small church – song lyrics projected on a screen, or the leaves of a hymnal for communal song. I miss common prayer; candles and communion, scented with the blood and bread of remembrance.


But this disease is real. My young pastor suffered from COVID-19. Starting with a headache, symptoms deepened. Services – online or in-person (a small group of masked, distant congregants) – were cancelled.

Back in Michigan, my sister-in-law itched, as if she broke out in hives, with a temperature spiking to 102.

In the Dakotas, hospital beds fill. Not all are handling this well. As of this writing, Gov. Burgum ignores nurses’ pleas. A Sanford CEO resigns after doubting masks. The CDC is ignored or attacked. Although some patients show gratitude, others curse nurses and doctors for wearing masks, for not providing quick “cures” like hydroxychloroquine. Curses. Sometimes their last words.

But sometimes little distractions help us tend to our relative isolation. I found the music of the extraordinary Kanneh-Mason family of seven gifted siblings, or the “chill” music of Lane 8 and Klangarussell. Once, I even danced around to ‘80s music.

I’m reading serious books (“Afropean” by Johny Pitts) and light (Maeve Binchy novels).

My husband and I watched a “Yellowstone” marathon, and “The Undoing.”

But I’m also digging deeper into my spiritual life with more Bible/prayer than I have done in years. I find a mask even allows me to pray quietly, in public.



  • Brickner: The Greatest Generation needs us Remember the words of Harry S. Truman, back in 1952: "Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people." Let us help all the people.
  • Brickner: That's not Christian How much better would it be for us all to follow Christ’s Golden Rule: to do unto others what you would have done unto you?

I give small donations to church, along with two or three organizations, like Charity: Water and Team Rubicon, the latter made up of veterans helping others recover after natural disasters.
I’m not alone. Friends connect and post engaging questions and fun surveys on social media. Another solicited names for people needing food and money. Helping others. An outward focus.

What we do in the shadow of COVID-19 enriches the future. One hundred years ago, with the end of World War I and the end of the Spanish Flu, previously closed houses of worship joined in common celebration. If we, especially those with health and income, summon hope and sacrifice for each other now, we can memorialize loss and celebrate survival soon, even as, in Christianity, the sacrifice on Good Friday deepens Easter’s joy.

Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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