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Love in the Time of Corona

From left: Sherry Dopwell, Sean Dopwell, Peyton Gibbs, Katelyn Gibbs

On Saturday, June 27, two blessings occurred in my family. The first was that my cousin William married his college sweetheart, Julianna. The second was my brother and sister-in-law renewing their vows after 17 years of marriage. These are significant events in their own right, but at a time like the one we are all experiencing, it feels so much more important to remember that such events still occur.

William and Julianna postponed their wedding twice as a result of the Coronavirus, and finally settled on June 27 as the date that they would marry, with just a small number of family members present. When I asked William for his take on all of the changes, he said that Julianna was the one who had to deal with the larger portion of stress as related to the wedding itself. William was working at a hospital, so there was an emotional strain related to that. William said that one thing that was important was the support they had for each other and from other family and friends. He's glad that they didn't wait for the wedding, though the reception was pushed to 2021.

Julianna's contribution was similar to William's: she mentioned the struggles with planning the moving target that was their wedding day. She and William both stated that they preferred the smaller, more intimate wedding, so that was one thing that worked in their favor with all of the insanity in other parts of their process. Julianna said that she had a lot of love and support coming from family and friends, and that outpouring was what helped her through the harder times. People checked in on her and William, and on the day of the ceremony itself, dozens of people tuned in for the live stream or watched later on (or in my case, a little bit of both!). Having the wedding to focus on seems to have given people a reminder of the beauty that remains even when it's harder for us to grasp.

Sean and Sherry renewed their vows in the same chapel where they had taken their initial vows. My foster teen and I were there to celebrate, alongside my nephew Peyton and niece Katelyn. I also started a video chat with my mother Mary, so that she could celebrate with us. Mom was home in the house in Maryland she shares with Sherry and Sean that day, with the very important job of caring for the pets. Her presence at home helped make it possible for them to travel to Gatlinburg for their wedding. The minister who performed the ceremony had been so glad to see the couple back and strong in their love for one another, as well as the love we all have as a family.

Sean and Sherry have had their share of challenges in their marriage, some of which happens at some point in a large percentage of marriages (financial stress), and some of which occurs in...fewer... instances (racism). The two of them have worked through so much together, and have only grown stronger as a couple over the years. When I look at them, I see two people who are confident in their love and who are truly best friends. And all the mushy stuff they said to each other after the vow renewal, too.

One couple I consider to be an excellent example of how a marriage should work is that which brought my cousin William into the world: my Uncle John and Aunt Dina. These two have an amazing manner of communication which is often funny and always supportive. They recently retired from their respective jobs and began a trip together to explore retired life. They both have a strong sense of family and responsibility, and I am so glad that they are taking some time to be with each other and perhaps enjoy a bit of what the world has to offer even through this time. They deserve the rest after having been so helpful to so many people over the years!

While I have thus far highlighted the love of three couples, the most important elements of their stories of love are just evidences of good relationships in general, rather than romantic relationships specifically. So what about other acts of love I've witnessed or learned about during this time? Well, below are some tidbits I've gathered.

Pet time! My cats and my bird are enjoying having me home more often. They have no idea why, but they certainly enjoy the cuddles and play time. A friend said her husky has been out of the crate and with the family more, while another friend is fostering kittens until they're ready to go to their permanent homes. The animals are benefiting, though I would wager that the human beings are getting some positive results from being around their animals, too. I know I am. Don't tell them that, I'll deny it!

Zoom and other meeting options. When we are busier and home less, we often say we will call someone or video chat "tomorrow." I think that one thing I've benefited from is getting in some face time or phone time with my friends and family. Talking, laughing, celebrating and otherwise communicating with the people we love are behaviors which have kept many of us somewhat sane. And now that so many of us have Zoom, we know it can be done!

Grieving. So many of us have lost loved ones, whether due to COVID-19 or for some other reason. Even if it's not because of the pandemic, the circumstances such as delays in the burial process are definitely influenced by it. I personally know people who have lost family, including myself. There is something simultaneously painful and cathartic about sharing in the undertaking of incomplete grieving. Commiserating with friends and family about how we couldn't give someone the funeral they should have had or that we don't fully grasp that they are gone helps us to remember that we are all experiencing this together in one way or another. Laughing about some absurd thing that some cousin just had to do to honor so-and-so can be helpful.

Love is something that exists in times of great joy and immeasurable pain. Love is communication. Love is action. Love is realizing that when someone who is always calm snaps at you during a pandemic, it's probably not you; it's Corona. Vowing love in a wedding or during a renewal is a tangible, visible expression which can serve as a salve in the midst of great heartache. Heartache itself is evidence of love, as we mourn the losses of so many people who have been important to ourselves or to people who are important to us. A desire to take away someone's heartache is part of love, even though we may not be able to do so. One day, Coronavirus will no longer be a major threat to our lives. We will finally begin picking up the broken pieces of our lives, visiting with the people we love without having to distance ourselves or limit our time, and moving forward in our grieving processes which were left unfinished. We will need that love to continue to be displayed as we slowly begin to heal as individuals and as a people.


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