It was almost exactly two years ago this past Sunday that our world shut down.
At the church, we felt prepared. Weeks before, when we heard about this strange virus that may visit us, we had assembled a task force of church leaders, scientists, and public health professionals who had given us the okay to stock up on hand sanitizer and temporarily shut down our water fountains.
When guidance emerged encouraging folks to refrain from meeting in larger groups, we took what felt like an extra cautious step postponing the next two Sundays, not just one. I encouraged JD and Kelsey to see the coming few days as an opportunity for Sabbath rest. “Catch up on some reading,” they continue to remind me I told them.
We made this decision on a Thursday, and since we didn’t have live streaming capabilities and most of us had only recently heard of something called Zoom, we decided to create a self-guided worship packet to use at home (Though, shout out to LeAnn Johns, who, at the January Church Council meeting that year had suggested we look into a church Zoom account to help with committee meetings. We were worried about the cost.).
Within a week or two, the ministers began recording services which we would load to YouTube, and it became increasingly clear that what at first was thought to be a strange but manageable set-back would be something altogether different.
I still remember the feeling in my gut as Audrey and I were sitting on our couch one evening when a friend shared an article saying we should expect the lockdown to continue for at least another 12 weeks (!), which, when we did the math, would take us well past Easter. Even then we had no idea.
I will confess I have grown tired of these Covid anniversaries. In some ways, we marked the first year with a sense of accomplishment. Now at two years the feeling is more forlorn. Billy was a kindergartener then, still struggling with the transition from half-day preschool. Now he’s a second grader excited about upcoming field trips. We all will mark these two years differently, but it is all significant. It is all too much.
In a recent article, Dr. Scott Small, the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, writes, in words meant to be comforting as much as provocative, that we will forget much of the past two years, and that may be a good thing.
While we think of even momentary forgetfulness as a malfunction, he argues that in reality, forgetfulness is just as much a part of healthy brain function as memory. “There is a danger in remembering too much,” he writes, “forgetting is not only normal but in fact necessary for our mental health.”
It’s this healthy “forgetting,” or “letting go,” as we often put it, that keeps us from being trapped in painful or traumatic experiences, and able to live beyond them.
The key, it seems, is to be intentional about what we should hope to remember, and what we should like to forget. Put another way, so much of our happiness involves being mindful of what memories and experiences we will center our lives around, and what we will let fall to the periphery, if we keep them at all.
And while this work may take on added import in the year ahead as we emerge from what was into what is and will be, this is really whole-life work. And it also happens to be very much a part of what we as a church have committed to do and be together.
This is good news. In fact, it’s The good news.