This summer I attended a wedding in Omaha, a bluegrass concert in New Jersey, and heard a nationally acclaimed author speak about her new book in D.C. How did I achieve all of this during the COVID-19 pandemic? Thank you, Zoom.
My summer travel was limited to my backyard and local trails yet thanks to technology and creative adaptations by those who understand that such gatherings are not possible, safe, or responsible during this global health crisis, I was still able to participate and feel connected, in a sense, to some very memorable moments. With 100 guests on an early July morning, my husband and I watched his cousin marry in Omaha from our couch, bouncing our baby on our laps, fervently waving and a blowing kisses at the screen. There was quite the ruckus when all the guests’ screens were unmuted and together we shouted, “Mazel Tov!”
Book tours and concerts aren’t occurring like they used to, so I appreciate the opportunity to view a concert from my computer screen at home. Not leaving the house to listen to the banjo while the son builds with Legos and the baby bangs a spoon? Sign me up again.
Is it difficult and disheartening to not attend in person, to not be able to hug Ellie and Barry and wish them all the best in their marriage? Of course it is. Is it heartbreaking to grieve the sudden and unexpected loss of a member of my congregation without an in-person funeral? Of course it is. Yet, thanks to technology I sat Shiva, listening to Rachel’s friend and family, gathered across the country, talk about her life, her love of music, dancing, and a good joke. These interactions do not replace or recreate what occurs in the flesh, especially during periods of great sadness and great happiness.
Yet the risk is too great. Now is not the time to attend weddings, concerts, readings, or even, yes, as hard as it is to write this, large funerals. Yet this is what life – and being responsible to the community of life – requires during a health crisis. It is sacrifice. It is enduring hardship. It is not permanent.
Virtual interactions and gatherings are an incredible opportunity during these uncertain times that allows us to maintain relationships, celebrate and grieve, and even explore new ideas and experiences. No one wants to postpone these major life events, including the ability to hold a funeral, yet for the greater good we must. Better days lie ahead.
Until then, thank you, Zoom.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.