In his latest “From the Chapel” blog post, OSV publisher Scott Richert writes, “Our family…
From the Chapel — April 24: Of life and death, and accordions
“From the Chapel” is a series of short, daily reflections on life and faith in a time of uncertainty. As people across the world cope with the effects of the coronavirus — including the social isolation necessary to combat its spread — these reflections remind us of the hope that lies at the heart of the Gospel.
Today is Msgr. Owen Campion’s 80th birthday. Back in the world that was, OSV’s chaplain and former associate publisher intended to be in Rome today. In the world that is and for some time shall be, he’s spending today, like every other day over the past five weeks, at home.
He did venture outside this morning, though, when a doughty band of OSV employees came by to sing him “Happy Birthday” — observing all appropriate social-distancing measures, of course. Accompanied by a three-quarter sized accordion wielded by Tim Johnson, associate editor of The Priest and The Deacon and, earlier in life, accordionist for the German Club at Bishop Luers High School, we sang the song in what seemed like record time. Part of the perceived brevity may be because of a silly tradition in our family (we try to stretch “Happy Birthday” out until all of the candles have melted into puddles of wax on the birthday cake), but most, I think, was because we didn’t want the moment to end. As I mentioned yesterday, we are social creatures, and as Catholics, grace completes nature. Being face to face again, it was hard to walk away.
A little later in the day, as I finished up my run, I was listening to a tech podcast. One of the hosts recently lost his mother, and he described his experience of being unable, as she grew sicker and sicker, to go visit her, for fear of inadvertently exposing her and his father to the coronavirus, or anything else he might be carrying. His mother and father decided to wait longer than they normally would have to go to the hospital to have her examined and treated. Whether that delay contributed to her death isn’t clear, but the host felt tremendous guilt for being unable to be with her in her last days and hours.
There are going to be many more stories like this before this pandemic subsides. But there will be more stories as well of friends and family gathering in the street to serenade their loved ones on their birthdays, and planning parties for when they can all get together again. And the memories that we make now will remain with us for years.
As Monsignor said more than once during our brief time together (yet apart) today, “This is better than it would have been if we were in the office.” More and more, we’re learning to cherish these brief moments, these pauses from the hustle and bustle of “normal” life, the exchange of pleasantries and birthday wishes.
Who knows? A little bit longer, and we might even come to appreciate the accordion again.
Scott P. Richert is publisher for OSV.