I would like to offer you my experience of “sheltering in place” for three months 33 years ago, and what I learned.
When asked as a child what I most wanted to be when I grew up, my only answer was, “I want to be a mother.” Often this answer was met with a comment like, “Oh, you must want to be something other than just a mother!” But for me, there was no more exciting adventure than wanting to be a mother.
I was blessed in 1976 with the birth of a little girl, and then again in 1981 with another little girl. I loved being a mother so much, and found so much joy in just being with our girls, Rami and Mira. But I yearned for more children, and always thought that four would be a perfect number for me. Barry was very happy and content with our two girls, but my desire was so strong that he lovingly consented to another baby.
In 1987, I became pregnant again and I was thrilled! I meditated with the baby, sang to her, lovingly stroked my hands over my belly, and told my baby stories. I was totally in love with this unborn baby, and Barry and our girls were, as well. I was so sure that the baby was a girl that I named her Anjel, because she was my angel. Anjel was an important part of our family. Then two days after Christmas when I was six months pregnant, we discovered that our precious Anjel no longer had a heartbeat.
Devastated, I needed an operation to have her body removed and got to hold her lifeless form for a short time. My milk came in, just as if I had given birth to a live baby. My body was still trying to finish what it had started six months before.
I went into a very deep grief. Barry agreed to take on my part of our business work, so my only job was to watch and care for our two little girls. It was a joy to be with our girls, and they were at an age where they loved playing alone and together making up stories. That left me lots of time all to myself to deal with the grief that I felt. I tried going out with our daughters a few times, but it seemed I always saw another woman who was pregnant, and that would send me running to our car in tears. Barry and I decided that I would stay completely at home and only see him and our girls while I was healing from the grief.
And in this period of sheltering at home, this is the most important lesson I learned: the practice of gratitude is powerful and can bring us through even the hardest of times. There are some things that are easy to be grateful for, and it is powerful to concentrate on those. But there are also things that seem too hard to feel grateful for. It is during these times when gratitude is so difficult to feel, that we can be grateful that someday we will understand.
There were days when my grief over the loss of our baby was so extreme that I could hardly function. During these times, I would give thanks that one day I would understand why our baby was taken from us. I would thank God that one day I would receive a gift from this experience and that this gift would bring me great joy. It was the act of giving thanks in the future, even though I did not feel it in the present, that brought me through one of the most difficult periods of my life. And the gift that eventually came was a beautiful little baby boy that rested in my arms two-and-a-half years later.
We have a very dear friend, Sister Sally, who lives in South Africa. She runs The Holy Family Care Centre for 76 orphans, many of whom have HIV or AIDS, making them very vulnerable to the current coronavirus pandemic. Like us, they are also required to “shelter in place.” The children, some of whom are babies, are all home from school for the rest of the year. They are a five-hour drive to the nearest hospital in Limpopo. She has ten volunteers and some of them cannot speak English. Of these volunteers, one has limited nursing training, so she is in charge of any sick children. Sister Sally is in charge of keeping all of these vulnerable children, as well as her volunteers, safe and healthy. This would be an overwhelming task for anyone.
I just spoke to Sally, and her energy and spirit was high. On the phone, she expressed all of the things that she is grateful for, like the fact that she has volunteers who are willing to stay given the obvious risks. She is practicing thanking God ahead of time for protection. This act of gratitude is keeping her going and keeping her spirits up.
Perhaps it is difficult to be sheltering at home for an unknown amount of time. Perhaps you have fears that you will get the virus or that someone you love will die from it, or you will lose your job and have financial hardship. Perhaps it is difficult to feel your purpose and energy while you sit at home day after day. Perhaps you are afraid that life will never return to normal, and you can hug people without fear, go to dances, sporting events, religious services, or just have a large family dinner together.
The practice of giving thanks ahead of time, with the hope that one day a gift will come to you from all of this, can bring you through even the hardest day. As you do this day by day, your gratitude will become stronger than any fear you can have.