Butterflies with Tattered Wings.


It was last year at this time that I felt like I hit the jackpot.  I was deemed vaccine-worthy by my health plan’s gatekeepers.  Two weeks after getting my second jab, I stood watching a sunset on a beach in Florida with my similarly vaccinated father-in-law and his companion whom we had not seen in more than a year.

The theme song to this five night vacation could have been Foreigner’s, “Feels Like the First Time.”  For better than a year, I had been poor, sad little Lumiere from Disney’s animated, “Beauty and the Beast.” Deprived of my favorite Sunday night hobby of hosting dinners with family and friends, I came to see the truth in that little candlestick’s signature catch-phrase, “Life is so unnerving for a server who’s not serving.  He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon!”   It was as if that vaccine was Belle walking into my cobwebbed, quarantined, sad little life.  Then, “oopsie daisy,” I blew the oven doors off of our Florida condo’s kitchen.  My in-law’s gift of ten pounds of fresh clams were transformed into Linguine alle Vongole one night Cioppinothe next.  One morning I laid a table with crepes, both savory and sweet, crisscrossed with fresh roses that were the color of a sunrise…the color of Easter…the color that comes back into a face after a long fever has broken.  

The same thing happened to my wife.  Sprung from her home-office Zoom meetings, simple little things were brand new again.  Seeing things with fresh eyes, led to doing things in a fresh way.    In a miracle not seen since Lazarus’ stone was rolled away, Lisa talked my seventeen-year-old into joining us for watching the sunrise on the beach.  In turn, Lizzie gave us fresh eyes to appreciate the tiny water’s edge birds with their adorable little rapid steps keeping pace with each fickle new wave.  For Lisa, then me, then Lizzie, mornings were contagious and fresh!    


As I sat on that beach reveling in our liberation, I couldn’t help but remember what it was like a year earlier.  On Easter Sunday,2020, my family plus my future-son-in-law took our quarantine bubble and gathered around our television set to watch Andrea Bocelli’s Easter performance.  If you happened to catch this, then you might remember the austere opening scene to this concert?  It was a prolonged drone tour of the empty, death-riddled city of Milan.  The camera made its excruciating way to the doors of the empty Cathedral, where an organist, and Bocelli provided a heartbreaking concert filled with longing, and a soaring hope for recovery and some return to what we had failed to cherish enough before this moment.  

On Easter, 2021, I compared the good fortune of that moment with the anxiety-riddled year-before with its shut downs, lockdowns, and jam packed COVID units as well as jam-packed morgues.  On the shores of our 2021 Easter vacation beach, It really seemed like we were Apollo XIII swinging back into the light from the dark side of the moon.  It felt as if “Morning” truly had “Broken!”  

2022:  Finding Easter on a Broken Morning

Here we are, a year later.  Thanks to multiple factors, including our vaccines, COVID is far less lethal.  Nonetheless, the “Alpha,” “Delta,” “Omicron,” and a subvariant of Omicron continue to mutate and cause trouble.  Subvariants of the culture wars also continue to mutate, causing inflammation in its hosts, and dividing us one from the other, leading to a kind of weakness in our communities’ immune systems.  Two years ago, a pandemic threatened the world.  This year, a Cuban Missile Crisis Redux has taken its place.  

Why is it always like this?  Since before I can remember, I have gravitated toward those movies or shows like Mission Impossible where the bad guys always get their comeuppance, and the good guys and gals get to ride off into a warm sunset.  “When,” my inner child demands, “will I get my ‘happily ever after” ending?’”  “I want it!”  “I deserve it!”    

Alas!  Even a cursory glance across human history, or the history of one’s own life reveals the truth contained in the phrase,  “C’est la merde!”  (i.e. Manure Happens!).  Lucy Hone, a resilience researcher, frequently begins her workshops by asking her audience members who have suffered the loss of a loved one to stand up.  Next, she asks anyone to rise if they, or a loved one have ever contended with a serious illness.  “Anyone ever here lose a marriage or relationship to divorce or a break-up?  Stand please!”  You see where this going?  Two, four, six, ten at a time, people stand as the litany continues:  job loss, financial insecurity, miscarriages, infertility, children not thriving….  The list goes on and on until no one remains seated. The punch-line?  There is no such thing as a “happily ever after,” adversity-free life.  

Sprung from a weeks-long metamorphosis within its pupa, the butterfly is the universal symbol for Easter.  Given the ubiquity of adversity, we are all, to some extent, butterflies with tattered wings.  

An Easter Reflection for 2022

I called my friend, Dennis just after the birth of my first daughter.  He was single at the time, and wanted to know what childbirth was like.  “It was kind of strange,” I replied.  “There’s every bodily substance you can think of, along with some I never even knew about.  There’s terrible, frightening pain for your wife that you can’t do anything about, but then there’s something unspeakably beautiful too!”  

It seems to me that this is the core of how life is.  In any given moment there is the unspeakably beautiful, along with the pain and all of those things that roughly fit under the chapter title, c’est la merde.  

The Easter trick is all about choosing your ground and horizon.  Mixing those up is a recipe for an endless Good Friday that never gives way to Easter.  The ground…is the radical acceptance that life is hard.  Paradoxically, acceptance of that fact makes life so much easier.   The horizon…must be intentionally and even defiantly chosen.  In my family, we call it “beauty checks.”  Kathy Hone calls it, “hunting the good stuff.” Brother David Steindle-Rast calls it “finding what you can be grateful for in any given moment.”  I like to call it “Stop, Drop and Savor.”  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes one has to place one’s gaze on the hard part.  The trick is to pay only as much attention to it as necessary in order to gain a full and complete acceptance of reality as it is rather than as I wish it to be.  The Easter super-skill is the capacity to pick one’s gaze back up off of that realistic  ground to scan the horizon for what is Beautiful, or Loving, or Good, or Kind or Merciful…then to Stop, Drop, and Savor it.  And despite the perpetual brokenness in our world, every moment is jam packed with these flavors of graces for those with their developed eyes to see it.     

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