‘Between Gratitude and Grief’

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"It’s in the mess where we learn compassion, empathy and generosity." Art: Contributed

I shouldn’t be writing today.

I should be packing CDs, getting an oil change, confirming concert details and making a checklist that includes “Don’t forget socks!”—a detail learned from experience. I should be getting ready to pack the car for our two-month, five-province 10th Anniversary East Coast Tour. A time of music, celebration and joy!

You see, my husband Gerald and I are a full-time ministry called Infinitely More. For a decade, we’ve been traveling the country with the simple goal of sharing God’s love through music. Each year, we sing in every single province, performing over 100 events annually. We have ecumenical hearts, with a desire to cross denominational lines and encourage others to do the same. We also have deep roots in the Anglican church. So if you’re reading this, we’ve probably played in your church, and we’ve almost definitely played in your diocese!

Allison Lynn and Gerald Flemming at the 2019 East Coast Music Awards, Charlottetown, PEI. Photo: Contributed

Gerald has written hundreds of songs, and we love recording albums—we’ve got eight under our belt and a new one in development—but the heart and soul of our ministry is live music. We love gathering together with a church community for the intimacy of Sunday worship. We love travelling across the country, entering a church as “strangers” and realizing we’re home, simply because we’re all part of God’s family. And few things excite us more than a minister coming up to us at intermission to excitedly share that this is the first time all the churches in town have worked together to host a concert! Imagine: Anglicans, Lutherans, Pentecostals and Baptists in one sanctuary, differences put aside, and voices raised together in one unified song of praise! There’s nothing like it.

But that was before the world fell apart.

Instead, I’m home. My fridge is full, my family is healthy, and I have a comfortable roof over my head. I have a lot to be thankful for. But I also have an empty tour calendar, an unclear vision of the future, and unexpected waves of anxiety over the safety of our world.

My emotions are a mess these days. Can anyone else relate?

These days, I’m swimming between Gratitude and Grief.

Many psychiatrists have spoken about this season as being one of grief and trauma. No two mourning experiences are ever the same. Our symptoms come from the same list, but we’re each having our own unique struggle. For some, it’s the loss of human connection and the everyday movement of society. For others, it’s a loss of work, productivity and purpose. And for far too many, it’s the nuts-and-bolts grief of losing loved ones to a deadly virus, coupled with the pain of mourning in isolation.

“God Is Speaking.” Recorded during the 2019 East Coast Tour by Heart Matters of Gander, N.L.

Our talented collaborator, Drew Brown (former worship leader for Trinity Church Streetsville in Mississauga, Ont.), recently wrote about the pandemic bringing up “new waves of grief” as we all find cancelled events and holidays popping up on the calendar.

This resonated deeply with me. Our East Coast Tour has become a treasured part of our year. We love—and I mean LOVE!!!—this annual tour. It grounds and spiritually renews us.

Infinitely More at Anglican Church of Christ the King in Sydney, NS. Photo: Contributed

Yes, there’s the financial loss, and that’s difficult and significant. But there’s more than that. We’re from the East Coast. Our roots are still there. We’re missing brunch with our family, my cousin’s graduation and gallivanting about town with my childhood BFF. I can’t quantify that loss, and I know I’m not alone in this. Many of you are missing weddings, reunions and all kinds of special occasions. This is the stuff of life. Real, in-the-flesh, hug-your-loved-ones kind of life. It’s great to connect online, but certain moments are built for human contact. We need to acknowledge these losses and take the time to mourn them.

But in saying that, I’m so thankful for technology. I’m thankful for churches who are struggling with a learning curve to connect us in worship and prayer. I’m grateful for open-minded seniors who are trying Skype and Facetime for the first time (I’m looking at you, Mom and Dad!). I’m grateful for musicians, writers and theatres who are finding new ways to uplift us with their inspiring art.

And once I get thinking about it, I start to feel a rush of gratitude: for neighbours, who offer to pick up necessities on their grocery run; for our Canadian leadership, and the countless ways they’re working to provide us with clear information and financial support; for the beauty of spring and its promise of new life.

But then, right there, I get hit by the wave again:

We’re in lockdown.
This is not normal.
A deadly illness is attacking our world.
People are dying.

And just like that, once again, I find myself swimming between Gratitude and Grief.

This mess of feelings that doesn’t make sense, doesn’t feel good.
These emotions that clash against one another in an endless cycle.
It’s exhausting.

But maybe…what if…just for now…
What if living in this clash, in this mess of feelings, is our new normal?

After all, isn’t the mess where most great things happen?

We all love the boldness of the grand finish. We all appreciate the clarity of an obvious loss.
But isn’t it in that in-between space where most of life actually happens?

Struggle and overcoming happen in the mess.
It’s where we grow, expand our perspective, and discover new views of the world.
It’s in the mess where we learn compassion, empathy and generosity.

Maybe this mess of Gratitude and Grief is exactly where we need to be right now?

Maybe it’s only in this space where we can gain the fullest and most loving perception of our reality.

It’s good and right to mourn with those who mourn.
It’s also good and right to give thanks in all things.

So, today, I invite you to take a deep breath.

Recognize the things you’ve lost.
And then, give thanks for the blessings around you.

Please join me, in the space between Gratitude and Grief.

Allison Lynn and her husband, Gerald Flemming, form the award-winning duo, Infinitely More. To learn about their online worship and performances during the lockdown, please visit www.InfinitelyMore.ca

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