Time to address the elephant in the room. We are all a little bit afraid. The circumstance we find ourselves in is so unusual, so massive, so unbelievable. And, so frightening. Will we get sick? Will our loved ones get sick? Will this virus be contained? Will all our efforts do what they’re supposed to do? Will we have enough food? Will we run out of money? Will we have jobs? Will our mortgages be paid? Will we be able to retire? Will our children survive? Will our children be traumatized? Will our children have a future? There are a million swirling questions and very few answers.
I doubt I am alone in having momentary waves of panic. Times when I am simply overwhelmed by what is going on; by the unknowns, the disruption, the strangeness. And I am not a worrier. Those who suffer from anxiety are surely struggling. Those accustomed to being in control will be baffled. Those who routinely over achieve, may be grasping for their usual confidence. We are all faced with a kind of fear we really haven’t ever experienced.
There is something deeply comforting about a lullaby being sung to a baby. The soft care with which these tender songs are sung, the enfolding of a tiny life within caring arms, the promise of safety, the hope offered within a parent’s full knowledge of the challenges the child will face. The belief in the ability to calm fears and provide absolute safety. We all understand that reality sometimes gives us something less than we’d wished, but when we sing or hear a lullaby, we are consoled. Because the love with which these songs are offered is so strong, that it blankets us with peace. Peace that allows us to sleep and rejuvenate, even if we are to cry again in the morning.
I offer the familiar Welsh lullaby, Suo Gân, in that spirit. It’s lovely melody and tender words do not solve anything in this crisis. But it is beautiful and it reminds us that there are powerful forces of love around us that can give us enough space for moments of slumber, when we need them most.
Sleep my baby on my bosom
Warm and cozy will it prove
Round thee mother’s arms are folding
In her heart a mother’s love
There shall no one come to harm thee
Naught shall ever break thy rest
Sleep my darling babe in quiet
Sleep on mother’s gentle breast.
Sleep serenely, baby, slumber
Lovely baby, gently sleep;
Tell me wherefore art thou smiling
Smiling sweetly in thy sleep?
Do the angels smile in heaven
When thy happy smile they see?
Dost thou on them smile while slumb’ring
On my bosom peacefully.
Do not fear the sound of a breeze
Brushing leaves against the door.
Do not dread the murmuring seas,
Lonely waves washing the shore.
Sleep child mine, there’s nothing here,
While in slumber at my breast,
Angels smiling, have no fear,
Holy angels guard your rest.
I don’t know how we will manage our fear. It is real. But I do know, that we have a vast capacity to share our strength with each other. Not every moment is mine to reassure you, nor is every moment yours to carry me. But, when we are able to share our fears, we also open up the door to share our strength. Your waves of panic may not coincide with mind, so I offer my strength when I have it – knowing full well that it may be fleeting. We need not be pillars of strength in every moment. We may indeed find ourselves folding our arms around each other in fear, but with the strength that our compassion and love provides.
There are leaves brushing against every door, and lonely waves crashing on the shores. They make scary noises in the night that we can no longer identify. But when this noise frightens us, we are allowed to focus on something else – for a moment, or however long we need to feel secure in this chaos. We are allowed to both seek and offer distraction and encouragement. We have an exceptional capacity to love. And when we slumber in the knowledge of the love of those around us, they become our angels. Smiling and guarding. When they need a rest, we take up the task. And the fear, thus shared, becomes thinner while our strength renews as a powerful force.
So, sleep. Feel arms enfolding you with all that we share. Good and bad. Walking this path together. And when you cannot sleep, sing a lullaby to one who can. When they have rested, take comfort in their voice. Let each become a holy angel, guarding rest with gentleness and peace.