I signed up for a slot to participate in our Covid Memorial Project.
The Covid Memorial task?
Mindfully, meditatively count 1500 stones as you place them into a jar. They represent lives lost to Covid in the United States. Then, place the jar of 1500 stones on one of the benches in our Peace Meadow.
I could tell you so many things about my church, this project, and the Peace Meadow, but you can find information in the links I included. This is an account (and accountability) of my personal experience as a participant.
I love this memorial project for many reasons. I stink at meditation. I knew right away that this was the perfect meditative project for me, because it involved movement, I didn’t have to sit still. I would be counting, sorting, filling my jars. I’m grateful to those who conceived this project.
I also love the project because, in this endless era of pandemic and political helplessness, I have something I can do: honor those we have lost.
Breaking the rules
I read the instructions on the table: count the stones into the jars, then carry the jar to the Peace Meadow. I deviated slightly, but I felt comfortable deviating towards comfort because, if my church does one thing well, it’s accept and allow for difference.
Instead of counting into the jars, I counted into piles of ten, much like I would count out coins when I collected and sorted coins, triggering pleasant childhood memories. I lined the stones up in columns of ten. I sorted 15 columns of 10 piles of 10 pebbles for one jar with mostly my dominant hand and fingers, then I moved to the other side of the table and counted out piles of 10 with mostly my left hand.
Spur of the moment decision.
I’ve been writing ten lines a day with my left hand for a few of months. My left-hand writing (left handwriting?) has improved a bit, but that’s not the point. I’m trusting the process to trigger something within. The shift resembles, for me, the walks along the same route but the opposite way. When I make the loop through my neighborhood or through the farm fields the “opposite” way, I see different parts of homes, notice different trees and structures. I feel a difference. Sorting the stones for the dead of Covid with my left hand gave me pause. I felt the loss from a different angle.
This is for me.
Counting complete, I placed my two jars of stones on the benches, took some photos, looked for angles. I don’t have anything special to share except that these stones represent real.
People I know are represented in these jars. The jars only hold the dead. I’m not sure my church campus could contain all those who have suffered and survived.
I don’t expect to change hearts of deniers, convince doubters, or corral troops around a cause. But I can do this. I can honor those we lost. I can be mindful of those who suffered and survived. I can hold up my child and his partner as they recover from the disease, my parents as they receive their vaccines. I can use both my right and left hands to embrace the losses and challenges. I can commit my restless body to an hour of remembrance and prayer.
As I took a few photos, I noticed some jars held condensation. I prefer to see these drops as our collective tears.
May those who were lost and have suffered loss during the pandemic be healed and remembered by our collective tears, by our mindfulness, by our commitment to do better, be better, and be present for each other.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021
This is profoundly moving, Pennie. (So is the idea of writing with your left hand on purpose — I’ve been aghast at how much my writing has deteriorated from my DOMINANT hand — I can only imagine with my left, but I suppose that’s sort of the point.)
The use of the non-dominant hand supposedly fires some brain things that otherwise don’t wake up much. And it makes you mindful of using those little finger muscles. I’m not sure I’d have the patience to write more than 10 lines, but I do it as part of my morning pages practice.
Love this. What a beautiful remembrance for those we’ve lost.
This is lovely, lovely. Thank you. Where is it taking place?
This is at my church in Baton Rouge, LA. The Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. We’re still not meeting in person at our church so this also gave me a chance to visit our campus. I’m grateful all the way around.
This is such a beautiful and moving idea. Thank you for sharing.