Wednesday, June 3, 2020


I’ve been thinking a lot about unconditional love these days.

Love that never asks, needs, wants. Love shared without expectation.

Other before self. Love that never ends.


God’s love. A parent’s love. A puppy’s love, when its whole world is Y-O-U.

The most fortunate of us receive the gift of unconditional love from our parents. As parents, it’s the greatest gift we give our children: “I’ll love you forever and always. No matter what you did to the car.”

Unconditional love - so selfless, so profound – guides, inspires, shatters. The power of a bond so deep transcends life itself.

Throughout the pandemic, unconditional love has moved our world to tears. Essential workers, heroically and selflessly risking and sacrificing their lives for others humble and awe those of us who quarantine at home, unable to assist. Unconditional love also breaks our hearts as loved ones die alone in hospitals or nursing homes, and families mourn in seclusion.
Unfathomably, our country and world is also reeling from the shocking inhumanity of police officer Derek Chauvin. With vicious, depraved indifference to human life, Chauvin, - whose job description is to protect people’s lives and property - presses his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Mr. Floyd, handcuffed and prone on the pavement, pleads; bystanders shout; three police officers assist; a seventeen year old films. And Officer Chauvin murders.

For decades to come, George Floyd’s murder and the protests that ensued will be etched in our collective minds. We’ve long witnessed systemic racism that sucks the peace, faith, hope and life out of so many Americans and our communities. More audacious by the day, this intolerance is so abhorrent, it has superseded the devastation of losing 105,000 American lives and 40 million jobs. In pursuit of justice and change, Americans – and citizens throughout the world - march in the streets; taking a stand regardless of the possibility of contracting the Covid-19 virus, that, like centuries of racism, is unchecked, easily spread and lethal.

The devastating drama and trauma sparked by a murder in Minnesota echoes the excruciating months of quarantine. Again, those of us not doing the essential work of saving and protecting lives feel a need and desire to do something for our fellow citizens bearing a tremendous burden. But what can we – the majority of us - do or say to mitigate centuries of death, murder, violence, racism, discrimination, and grief perpetrated on minorities? How can we even begin to wrap our hearts, heads and arms around the anguish, fury, fear, exhaustion, and hopelessness endured by so many of our fellow citizens?

Surely we can march, listen, advocate, educate, vote. But trying to crush the instinct to discriminate and hate based on one’s race, ethnicity and/or skin color is like attempting to escape a black hole. An equitable, just, colorblind society cannot be legislated. Laws won’t change a person’s character or heart.

Perhaps the horror of George Floyd’s death, immortalized on film, has the potential to change both laws and hearts. Because amidst nine minutes of hatred and torture, there is a miraculous moment that bears witness to the power of unconditional love.
“Please, please, please!” “I can’t breathe…”  “I’m about to die!” Mr. Floyd pleads.

And then: “Momma! Momma! I’m through.”

There, transcendent.

Unconditional love.

Confronting death, George Floyd calls out to the woman who gave him life. The mother who died two years earlier, on the same calendar day. As a mother, I can’t help but feel rage and anguish hearing Mr. Floyd’s plea, acceptance, and silence, as no one is there to defend and comfort him. As a child, blessed with 51 years of a mother’s unconditional love, I hear this plea and weep for humanity, wishing for the comfort of my mother’s hug.   

Few of us should have been privy to that sacred moment. Yet, knowing that in the final breaths of his life Mr. Floyd longed for the source of his life, I felt the sacred transcend the darkness.

It got me thinking about love. The unconditional sort, like the eternal link between George Floyd and his mother. This shock to our moral core made me realize that the greatest gift we give our children is not unconditional love. The greatest gift we give our children is teaching them to love unconditionally.

In this long week of reflection and grace, I’ve just begun to answer one of my questions: What can I do about the centuries-old plague of injustice and violence perpetrated on and endured by so many of my fellow Americans?

I can’t change centuries of institutionalized racism. I can’t change the hearts and minds of the millions of Americans who support and defend a president who encourages and glorifies racism and violence. I can march, listen, advocate, educate, vote. I can keep trying to love unconditionally – even the racists and bigots.

And in this pivotal moment in time, I can call out the awesome power of unconditional love, so profoundly revealed in the last moments of George Floyd’s life. This moment demands that all of us wield this power: raise our voices and defend, our consciences and listen, our hands and protect. This moment demands that we share this power with our children by teaching them to love unconditionally: to think of neighbor as self, to see heart and mind instead of color of skin, to celebrate our differences and understand that every human being is worthy of dignity, love, and life.

Essential work, this.

Thankfully, all of us can do it.  


Friday, April 10, 2020


A nurse drives home after a grueling 12 hour shift, thinking through tears about the many young, relatively healthy people who are dying alone; about family members unable to assist or speak with parents, spouses, siblings and children before their swift, unexpected death. “I feel defeated,” she writes, “helpless because we are working so hard, trying every treatment modality that we can, and patients are still dying.”

A patient’s oxygen levels drop catastrophically low. Without taking the time to pull on full personal protective equipment, a doctor rushes in to insert a breathing tube as the patient coughs up a deadly respiratory virus. Post procedure, the doctor is grateful he didn’t take time putting on all his PPE. Those precious moments helped save the patient, even if they endangered his life.

Emergency medicine physician, Halleh Akbarnia, recounts a covid-19 patient gasping for breath as he reassured his doctors, asking if they need anything. Mr. C. didn’t want to be on invasive life support, but he agreed to be intubated, telling Dr. Akbarnia, “I trust you and am putting myself in your hands.” Dr. Akbarnia writes: “I saw his eyes looking at me, seeing the kindness in them, even as we pushed the medications to put him to sleep.” Mr. C. nearly dies during the intubation as the team fights to keep him alive. Twelve days later, Mr. C. is recovering in the covid stepdown unit when Dr. Akbarnia visits and reminds her former patient of the night they met in the ER. Looking up at the doctor’s masked face, Mr. C. begins to cry. “I remember your eyes,” he says.

Every day, stories of heroism and heartbreak are shared by health care workers on the front lines of this brutal pandemic. We mourn with stunned and devastated families that are unable to bury or celebrate their loved ones at funerals or memorial services. We marvel as National Guard service members go door to door in Manhattan, consoling the living as they collect the bodies of the dead.

The scourge of Covid -19 is unfathomable. Could we ever have imagined witnessing a plague during Passover, and countless acts of sacrifice throughout Holy Week?  Collectively, throughout the world, we who worship will forgo religious services this sacred weekend. Yet there isn’t a book, text, reading, gospel or sermon that could more profoundly illustrate the tenets of faith we commemorate and celebrate than the stories we are reading, hearing, and experiencing…. moment by day by week.

It reminds me of a sermon I heard on Holy Thursday years ago. A priest I had never seen stepped beside the altar to preach. His accent was heavy, his voice slight, and I strained to hear and comprehend his words. A missionary, he recounted seeking and aiding the poor throughout the world. Haltingly, he read the gospel, then asked each of us to imagine the Lord washing our feet. Instinctively, I cringed. Fully empathizing with Peter’s protest to the Lord, “You shall never wash my feet!”, I always sat in the pew farthest from the altar during the symbolic recreation of the Last Supper, ducking any obligation to participate.

Truth is, I was always more comfortable on the ‘Serve’ side of the bleachers, rather than the ‘Be Served’ side.

My discomfort turned to tears as I understood the full impact of the missionary’s words and wisdom. “You are seated on a stool. Jesus is kneeling beside you, washing your feet. Imagine!” he called out above the silence. “You look down at this person serving you, and you are looking into the face of God.”

Serving. Being served.
Loving. Accepting love.
Aiding the vulnerable. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and aided.

This Holy week, and for the duration of the pandemic, we’ll continue to witness and participate in acts of love and mercy that could fill volumes of religious texts, readings and sermons. Love - in life and through death - will resound far beyond all houses of worship.

A random agent of death has swept across continents and inspired the sermon of the season: There’s only one set of bleachers and we’re all on the same side. 

Those of us who are served will surely remember the eyes.
The voice.
The touch. 
The compassion.
The assistance.
The sacrifice.
Of all who serve.

And vice versa.

I trust you and am putting myself in your hands.” Holy words from a patient to a doctor that lift and inspire this holy weekend.  

Looking to each other, serving one another, we are seeing the face of God.