Deacon Mike Taylor
Deacon Mike Taylor

Editor’s Note: The past year has been overwrought with countless stories of people here and around the world having to bear their pandemic crosses.

As Christians live through a second Lenten season with COVID-19, four clergy from the Diocese share personal reflections of encountering Christ during sickness, isolation, sacrifice and loss. Though these experiences will likely extend beyond Lent, the Lord, they agree, will continue to carry them through.

 

In December 2020, I began to wake up with what felt like the start of a head cold. I did the usual over-the-counter medicines.

The symptoms went away. A few days later, the cycle would repeat. Toward the end of December and into January, I began to feel great fatigue. I could sleep 14 or more hours a day and had little appetite.

I missed Christmas Mass. One of my sons and his wife told us they were going for a COVID-19 test. Since I was not feeling like myself, I decided I would also test for COVID.

I tested Jan. 4, 2021. My results came back positive for COVID Jan. 6, the same day my daughter-in-law Pamela died from COVID.

I was distraught. There was nothing I could do. I could barely take care of myself. I phoned my son, Mike, almost every day. I listened to him sob on the phone. At one point, I stood up with my phone in my hand and cried out, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”

Immediately, I felt a great release. I was powerless. I admitted it. Only God could carry the burden. And so began my walk with God, through the isolation of the Agony in the Garden. Through the pain of the Passion. In the silence and darkness of the Tomb.

I recently took a walk in the bright sun with a cold wind buffeting me. It felt good to be outside feeling full alive. And yet …

Pamela is still dead at age 46. My son is a widower at 49. My body is fully alive, and there is a grief and a sadness in my heart and soul.

I will carry all these conflicted feelings and mixed emotions for the foreseeable future. Before Lent began, I started my journey. In all likelihood, isolation, sacrifice and loss will be my companions after this Lenten season is over, possibly even after COVID-19 is something we talk about as a memory, similar to 9/11.

This is a Lent like no other in my lifetime. This is already a season mirroring the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are already brief glimpses of the Resurrection for me. A walk on a cold windy day. Being glad to be fully alive as I approach my 80th birthday.

I’ve been blessed to be able to resume my role as a permanent deacon and assist at Mass these past weeks. I am truly blessed to be working in my 43rd year as a deacon.

And in-between, the reality of not being free to be with others as I would like: spending more time alone than I prefer; the necessity of having to wear a face mask; avoid others; stay out of crowds and all the rest of the daily reality we face; Zoom meetings and telephone calls instead of being physically present to people whose company I enjoy.

Also, a nugget of joy. This walk with COVID-19 is the vehicle that aligns me more closely with our God. My Lenten journey mirrors the journey that Jesus walked in his last days. Jesus suffered the loss of everyone who ever meant something to him. In the end, he was alone except for his Father.

That is what this feels like. It’s me and God. God and me.

Deacon Mike Taylor serves in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River.