If this was any other April, any other Sunday, and other Easter, I would be in Port-au-Prince, Haiti right now. My flight would have left JFK in the morning, and right about now, the wheels of the plane would be touching the runway in the Caribbean. If this was any other day, this evening I would receive information about the English language clinic I was to teach at a local Haitian high school.
But, this is no ordinary April, no ordinary Sunday, no ordinary Easter.
One month ago today, my mom came to visit me in Manhattan. She landed in Queens, and we hopped the M60 bus back to the Upper West Side – to my tiny apartment near Columbia University. As we ate dinner a local burger joint, New York City declared a state of emergency regarding the Coronavirus outbreak. Not knowing what to expect, we hopped the second plane to Kentucky from LaGuardia Aiport less than 12 hours after my mom arrived.
There would be no venture to Brooklyn to eat a plate of Swedish meatballs at IKEA, no trip on the 1 train to Penn Station to visit Macy’s. In seconds, any plans – and my life in New York City on West 114th Street – evaporated. That same afternoon, all classes for the remainder of the semester were transitioned to online delivery, all campus events canceled. The city was now covered with a heavy blanket, a different vibe.
I am glad that, the next morning, when we flew out of LaGuardia airport, there was a heavy fog. I didn’t have to see the city disappear beneath me. When we pushed back from the gate, I held back tears. A pathetic, first-world conundrum.
For nearly two weeks after coming back to Kentucky, I left my suitcase packed up on the hope chest at the foot of my bed. I suspected, that if I left everything bundled up (which was furiously shoved into the same suitcase days earlier), then I could go back to Manhattan. Unpacking my Tiffany-blue suitcase meant that I was back in Kentucky for the long haul – something I wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge. Don’t get it twisted – I love Kentucky, I love my family. But, New York City is home and where my life has finally found rest after the post-college years of bouncing between apartments.
Yet, two weeks later, I stared at the suitcase – clothes hanging out, books stacked haphazardly inside – and started unpacking. I resigned myself that I would be in Kentucky for a while. I would go to class online, stay inside, take an occasional walk, come back inside, take a nap, repeat. My summer teaching trip to China has now evaporated, my summer mission to return to Jamaica – also teetering in the balance. I’ve lost a lot this year, and like many, I didn’t anticipate ever giving up this much.
Frankly, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if Columbia will return us to campus in the fall. I don’t know what New York City will look like in the next few months. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Kentucky and what will happen after all of this is over. I don’t know when I’ll get to attend another Mass that isn’t streamed online. This is the test of time, and most days, I’m not so sure I’ll pass the task at hand.
But, I do know one thing for certain: Jesus is alive, God is not dead, and Easter will reign in the hearts of everyone.