Looking for light in the darkest of Dark Ages

Someone asked how I was feeling the other day and the only word I could think of was fatigued. Not tired. Tired indicates that a little sleep or relaxation will cure your ills. Fatigued goes deeper than that, and I definitely feel like I’ve gone beyond tired.

The Brigade has entered the Dark Ages of 2021 and using phrases like “it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before” or “it’s not the same” seems trite at this point. The confluence of the never-ending pandemic, mind-numbing civil unrest, and the impact of all of that on the routine of our daily lives has numbed us. We’re not tired. We’re fatigued.

Yet, time presses on. The Brigade enters the Dark Ages not only with extra restrictions in place but plenty of uncertainty. This stretch is typically a tough one for a lot of Plebes, but they’ve always had the upperclassmen to show them the way. This time around, the Firsties are literally and figuratively in the same boat, facing uncertainty about everything from the croquet match with St. John’s to Commissioning Week.

For those on the other side, I can assure you that things are no more calm. My ensign is grinding out his training with heavy restrictions on movement and interactions. COVID is always lurking and it’s not so much the fear of enduring the illness that concerns him, but rather getting hit would likely set his training back, which in turn means it would be even longer before he gets that coveted first ship assignment. My cadet candidate at the Air Force Academy Prep School is in a similar situation, knowing a positive COVID test would result in yet another quarantine.

Hard to believe this wasn’t all that long ago.

All of this for us is against the backdrop of Mid Gram. Just this week we began hospice care. We wrestled with how much to tell her grandchildren; they had both been home for Christmas and had seen the significant decline that happened since Thanksgiving, but we worried about the impact on their tasks. We decided to move ahead and both of them video chatted with her, though she’s not really able to speak these days, so it was more them just sharing the goings-on in their lives and telling her they loved her.

Once we were able to temporarily put away the emotions, we talked to both of them about the inevitable. The ensign gave some advice to his sister on steps she should take in advance to shorten the paperwork trail.

The search for light has become more challenging, even as the days grow longer. But search we must and search we do. Perhaps the most moving moment for me happened just a few days ago, speaking with our pastor’s wife, who had been calling Mid Gram daily and visiting frequently. I gave her the daily rundown and she asked how I was doing. As she often does – as many of us often do – she said she was praying for me. But then she did something exceptional, she said, “I’m gonna pray for you right now.” And she did, then and there.

It was a moving moment, and a rare moment of peace and comfort. After the call ended, it struck me that maybe light isn’t all that hard to come by if we commit to making it happen. I’ve made it a point to spend at least a small portion of each day to do something that brings light and to do it directly to someone. I’m not as consistent with it as I’d like to be, but I’m working on it. I think we all should. The world isn’t going to tamp down the dark and bring back the light. That’s up to us. If anyone doubts that, think about where we were a year ago, when the Brigade entered the Dark Ages before COVID and found itself reeling from the loss of two of its own.

As I think of the Brigade, wrestling with these Dark Ages, I realize they need more light than ever. And I hope enough of us commit to making it happen.

A few simple ways to bring a little light into a Mid’s day:

  • Send a text message
  • If you are connected through social media, send a direct message
  • Send a physical note of encouragement through snail mail (I’ve yet to meet a Mid Parent who will not share a mailing address!)

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