This picture is of a piece of art that has always moved me. It is a statue commissioned by Henry Adams for his wife Clover's grave. Augustus St. Gaudens created it. I recently learned that Adams advised Saint-Gaudens to contemplate iconic images from Buddhist devotional art. One such subject, Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion, is frequently depicted as a seated figure draped in cloth.
Compassion, as the Dali Lama explains is "not passive — it's not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness."
I am writing this on Sunday after listening to this week's sermon on grief, after seeing the New York Times front page listing the names of those who have died from covid-19, and preparing for a conference call led by #naming the loss, which earlier this week had an online 24-hour service where volunteers spoke out loud the names of those who have been lost.
Loss is hard and sometimes feels impossible. There are no words that can make sense of it, though there are some that can serve as a raft to get to the next moment. There are rituals that we can participate in that can help us breath. For me, it is not simply about pain or sadness, though it is deeply there. At the core of the pain is an incredible beauty, it is the thing that makes life most valuable. It is love, present in our relationships and connections with other beings and the world around us. I have found that loss is painful because of love.
When I think of loss, I think about how it changes my sense of time. In the almost three months of staying at home, my sense of time and how I measure it has changed. There have been five periods of Ella and my stay-at-home time - bead people, mud world, Harry Potter (though HP has been a near constant there was one span when it filled most waking hours) crayon people, and we are now on to movie making. They are based on the things that Ella has focused her attention on, the worlds she has created to in this time of the loss.
Today I am grateful for the sun after so many days of rain. I am looking forward to learning what new periods of time await Ella and me. While it will not be what usually fills our summer and we will have time to grieve that shattering, we will hopefully not get stuck there and be able put it back together in a new way. (Thank you, Jon Lucas, for a wonderful Children's Time).