On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, Andrea Bocelli performed a beautiful concert called Music of Hope in the Duomo di Milan. He sang traditional songs of hope, his voice soaring high up into the flying buttresses that stretch the vast length of the cathedral. His rich tenor reverberated against the beautiful marble floors, the wood and stone pillars, the statues, the altar, the stained-glass windows, and the rows upon rows of centuries-old, wooden pews. Pews designed to hold up to 40,000 worshipers. Pews now empty. Bocelli stood alone in that deserted cathedral, with only his organist quietly accompanying him.
Bocelli finished his performance from the outside steps of the Duomo, facing the completely empty piazza singing Amazing Grace. As he sang, the camera panned out to show the vast, vacant space in front of the cathedral. The piazza that is normally filled with busy pedestrians going about their lives was utterly still, other than the powerful words Bocelli sang into the empty spaces:
Yea when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease.
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
As he sang the final verses, the camera angle switched to aerial views of Paris, London, and New York streets. Like the Piazza del Duomo, completely deserted. No cars. No people. Just empty.
In stark contrast to the hopeful image of the empty tomb that we sang about on Easter morning in our virtual churches, the empty streets of Milan, Paris, London, New York … your deserted street in your city … remind us of the deeply empty places we are still navigating in our lives as a result of COVID-19.
Our world is groaning with global grief. With extraordinary loss. Some are easy to name: the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job, the loss of personal connection and touch. Others are not so easy to name: the loss of a meal with a good friend, the loss of roles and identity, the loss of physical touch, favorite foods and favorite places. We are flooded with emotions we cannot place or name. Or we are numb.
In the next few days, let’s engage with loss together. Let’s notice the now-empty spaces in our lives. Let’s acknowledge our trauma, our loss, our grief … together. Not standing alone, as Bocelli in the beautiful Duomo, but together in the cathedrals of our connections and community.
ACTION: Can you begin to the name the losses you have experienced in the past week, months, perhaps even this past year? Take some time to sit in God’s presence with a notebook or your journal and write down what comes to mind. Resist the tendency to minimize (“It’s no big deal.” “It wasn’t that bad.” “Others have it worse.”). Just write it down. And notice what feelings are coming up as you begin listing those losses that surface.