A Hard Anniversary
By Rev. Catie Scudera, Published on November 2, 2017
Often in the year after a loved one has died, we are particularly pained during certain holiday seasons and special familial moments: it is heartbreaking to live through the first Thanksgiving, first birthdays, first annual family gathering, without our loved one. And, then, of course, we arrive at the first death anniversary, which can feel tender, surreal, and melancholy.
I remember during one month, I lost both my maternal grandfather and one of my beloved professors at Harvard Divinity School, Rev. Peter Gomes, and officiated my first funeral as a student minister at the Winchester Unitarian Society. It was February, and for such a short month, it seemed like it dragged on and on with grief. A year later, I was not fully conscious of the grief my body still held onto: the following January, my heart was a bit more tender — I had trouble focusing on my work — and, I did feel a bit blue. It took a reminder from loved ones that I was approaching this hard triple-anniversary of three deaths in my life for my consciousness to catch up with the grief my body still carried.
Last November after the presidential election, many members and friends of First Parish told me they felt like they were grieving a death. Some were shocked by the results; some made fearful by them; and, some were disappointed that our country had met their low expectations. I write this brief missive to all of you in the church, because I wonder if any of you have felt tender-hearted, unfocused, or even sad coming up to this anniversary in our country’s history. I wonder if any of you have begun to reflect on the last year, which has brought unease and suffering to so many as new harsh policies have been instituted and established human rights have been threatened and denied. I wonder if any of you are in need of a reminder of the hard anniversary we are approaching, and are in need of some encouragement to self-care and courage.
If you are in such need, I encourage you to take time for rest and revitalization this upcoming week, potentially reviewing the ideas in the “election anxiety”- and “inauguration anxiety”-relief blog posts written by Mark LaPointe and myself. Please do take care of yourselves, your family members, and your friends during this time, and know that your friends and staff team at First Parish are available for conversation and comfort.
As the leaves finally begin to change color and fall, I’m reminded of this piece by New England poet Mary Oliver:
“When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say,
‘and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.’”
May we remember that no matter how tender, surreal, or melancholy we may feel at one moment or one season, we have come into the world like trees and all living beings — to go easy on ourselves, to be filled with light, and to shine out.