I hit the jackpot! It must have been the combination of the three boxes I checked on the electronic form affirming that I was: (1) a “healthcare worker,” (2) [someone with] “asthma,” and (3) someone who has ceased being young. The algorithm built into my health system’s COVID-vaccination-slot-machine whirred and spun the reels until it came up straight cherries for me! Like I said, I hit the jackpot. I received my first COVID vaccine on Ash Wednesday! I got my second on March 11! Two weeks later, 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 that concluded last weekend, could have been Foreigner’s, “Feels Like the First Time.” For better than a year, I have 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!” Like Belle from the same movie walking into the Beast’s cobwebbed dining room, that beautiful vaccine walked into my life. Then, “oopsie daisy,” I blew the oven doors off of our Florida condo’s kitchen. My in-law’s gift of fifteen pounds of freshly caught clams were transformed into Linguine alle Vongole, and Cioppino with a crusty baguette to sop up the garlic, butter, and olive oil ambrosia at the bottom of our bowls. The next morning, crepes, both savory and sweet, were laid out on a breakfast table 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, long fever.
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. Each morning, Lisa and I got up with my father-in-law’s companion, Lynn, and watched the sunrise. As if Lisa’s inner-child became our morning tour guide, she would point excitedly, “Honey, look at the way that the smooth sheet of water catches the sky’s colors at water’s edge!” A little later she would notice, “Ooh, way out on the horizon…do you see that shaft of light coming through the clouds? Look how it bounces off the water!” On another morning, “Look, the moon’s still up! Oh! And it’s waxing!” In a miracle not seen since Lazarus’ stone was rolled away, Lisa talked my seventeen-year-old into joining us on the last morning. 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 Lynn, then me, then Lizzie, mornings were contagious and fresh!
By way of contrast, exactly a year ago, we gathered around our Easter Sunday television set to watch Andrea Bocelli’s Easter performance. If you happened to catch this, you may recall that as the hospitals filled up around our own country, the opening scene to this concert was a prolonged drone shot that hovered over that death-riddled, empty city of Milan. The camera made its excruciating way to the doors of the empty Cathedral, where an organist, and Bocelli provided heartbreaking longing, and a soaring hope for recovery and some return to what we had failed to cherish enough before this moment. Our pandemic journey is far from over, but we are clearly in a different place than we were this time last year. Thanks to Crisper, and RNA based vaccines, and the work of so many, we are swinging out into the light! Morning has broken.
Like Lisa on my vaccine vacation, I would like to invite you and me to step out into this new morning with great deliberation, with a clear eyed sense of mindful savoring. A common phrase I have heard myself exchanging with so many friends, clients, and family members over the course of the last year goes something like this, “I can’t wait to get back to normal!” It seems to me that a “return to normal” would be a tragedy of immense proportions…like an abdication of hard-won wisdom. If the suffering of this pandemic has taught us anything, it is to notice and savor the quotidian miracles embedded in every moment of what we used to call, “normal.”
I would like to invite you and me to make an Easter-Passover promise to one another. Let’s resolve to defiantly and intentionally resist the gravitational pull to go back to normal. Rather, let’s make a daily decision to step into each morning’s light present to the particular miracle that’s contained in this moment, in thisplace, in this time, with this person. To think of all the perfunctory hugs I used to waste! Now is the time to hug like it’s your first hug, or maybe your last.
Now is the time to return to the poet, Mary Oliver’s famous question, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (The Summer Day, 1990). And the trick is to do whatever that is with a profound sense of savoring every last bit of it.