In the Moment
During the Thanksgiving Holiday, this photo made the rounds, and no doubt many of you saw it: Dr. Joseph Varon, inside a Covid-19 unit at Houston United Medical Center, holding a lonely, elderly Covid patient on Nov. 26, 2020. The photographer, Go Nakamura (Getty Images), often visits the unit and never leaves unchanged. The article can be found here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/11/28/photo-texas-doctor-hugs-lonely-covid-19-patient-thanksgiving/6451760002/.
As I mentioned in a former post, lectio divina (sacred reading) can be applied to many mediums, including photography. I could not help but be stopped by this photograph, to sit with it, to cry with it, and to be open to receiving whatever message it has for me. I am reminded of Michelangelo’s Pieta, the stunning sculpture depicting Christ’s mother, Mary, holding her dead son in her arms. Dr. Varon has the same downcast eyes as Mary, the same still expression of acceptance, of reality, both of their poses that of a Christ-figure holding a beloved and broken child, both poses an imitation of all those who give up their hearts, who pour out endless compassion without judgment, for the sake of another. Those actions are the hope that this photo offers. And this current world needs that hope.
As of this writing, 13.6 million cases of Covid-19 have been documented in the USA, with 268,000 deaths. The number of new cases is 136,313, a number that is expected to grow. Yes, many of these people will recover, but over a quarter of a million of them have died, with more loss expected, changing the lives of family and friends, and even our own lives by losing what they may have offered to the world. This photograph of compassion is a light in this present darkness because it shows someone who refuses to concede to the darkness. This doctor, this patient, this photographer compose a Trinity that says “no” to those who have given up caring, “no” to those whose only concern is their own comfort, “no” to those who no longer remember what it is we are waiting for–not for things “to go back to normal” but for us to be transformed by this pandemic experience. This photograph is proof that each one of us in this winter season and time of waiting for the Light has the opportunity to go deeper, to connect with the God/Being/Spirit that gives us strength that we alone cannot muster. This photograph is a miracle of love.
What I sense I am being called to as I sit with this photo is to be present, however I can be, with anyone in a dark place, to practice compassion without judgment, and to remember to hold this broken world up to the light. My candle today is lit for any and all of those who, this moment, are sharing their lights despite the cost. It is lit for doctors, nurses, and all staff of hospitals and nursing homes. It is lit for friends and family of those who are struggling with Covid-19. It is lit for scientists and medical researchers spending countless hours away from family in order to secure a cure. It is lit for religious leaders of all faiths who week after week unfailingly provide worship in some form or other, despite criticism and impatience. It is lit for all those in our neighborhoods and cities who are making sacrifices to be without family, without friends, to follow the guidelines as an act of love for their neighbors. And it is lit in memory of all who have died, and all who know they are dying. It is lit for this doctor and this man in this photo and for the photographer who have the courage to be real.
As we journey toward the Light, may we never forget or be afraid to take the time to feel in this season of darkness and thus honor all impacted by this pandemic. May what is happening in this moment, right now, remind us of our own call to carry the Light. May we not leave this time behind as an awful memory but instead allow it to mold us into the image of Love. May we never leave unchanged. Blessings, and safety, to you.