Today, I mailed a package to my daughter. She will soon be celebrating her first birthday since moving to New York City and she’ll spend it in isolation in her apartment. I also drove across town and dropped off a present for a friend who turned 79 today. I put the gift bag on the bench outside his home, and we spoke for a few minutes at a safe distance. It was good to see him, but hard not to give him a birthday hug.
A friend recently wrote about how heartbreaking it is to mourn the passing of her favorite aunt when she can’t come together with people to celebrate her aunt’s life. Another told me she called off the trip she and her husband had planned for their 40th anniversary. My husband and I cancelled our trip to see our nephew graduate from high school, since the ceremony will no longer take place. All around us, people are giving up the rituals and traditions that mark the milestones in our lives.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the men and women of the World War II generation whom I’ve interviewed over the years. Many of them told me the same story with minor variations, how a woman would look up at the moon and wonder if her husband in a POW camp was looking at it too. Or how a soldier in a foxhole would imagine his wife standing under the same moon thinking of him. This shared memory never ceased to get to me. I think of all the soldiers and sailors who missed the births of their children, and all the women back home who marked their anniversaries by dancing alone in their living rooms. Maybe it sounds “corny” to some people, but to me, those stories went to the heart of separation, that need to have something that still ties us to each other.
Beyond all rituals and milestones and traditions there is love. That’s what it always comes back to. For those long-ago sweethearts, it wasn’t the moon that connected them. It was the love they imagined traveling to the moon and then shimmering down on their far-flung lovers. It was silly, of course, and overly romantic, but it was necessary. In a time when nothing felt certain, the moon was always there. Love was always there. In life, in death, in sacrifice, and in joy, love is always there.
Don’t just let your milestone moments slip by during this pandemic. They still matter. You still matter. Stop and feel the love that is coming to you. Find your own way, no matter how silly or simple or romantic, to breathe in that love and breathe it out again. Find your own moon to stand under.
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