When I heard Andrea Bocelli would be live streaming from the Duomo in Milan on Easter Sunday, I was delighted. I marked it on my calendar, thinking what a wonderful way to connect with others around the planet during this devastating pandemic.
“Haha, I’m even going to make ravioli to keep the Italian theme going,” I’d said, trying to make the best of this weird holiday in isolation.
When the live stream commenced, I felt immediately warm and connected. Images of the spires on the roof of the Duomo brought back memories of me walking among them on a searing hot day in 2009. It was a splendid day when I squeezed myself into the last tour of the Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
As the cameras swept through the empty Duomo and 2.7 million of us awaited Bocelli, I braced myself. Somewhere between the simple act of marking this on my calendar and the actual moments leading up to it, something had shifted in me. I instinctively knew I was about to give myself permission to feel.
I’ve been doing a Friday Zoom session each week since we began sheltering in place due to the coronavirus. It involves sending out a writing prompt beforehand to those interested. They write, then they bring it to the session and share with others.
A few weeks ago, the prompt I assigned was, “When I let myself feel my feelings …”
I facilitated but didn’t engage the topic myself. Not really. But I could feel emotions welling up inside me as the Bocelli event approached and I kept thinking of that prompt. I queued up YouTube on my TV and sat on my couch, waiting.
After the sweeping images of Milan, Bocelli appeared on the altar and began singing, accompanied by an organist. Two artists playing to an empty venue, yet reaching millions. His beautiful set list moved me and reverberated through my apartment.
But then, there he was standing outside in front of the Duomo in the next shot. Suddenly the realization of the vast emptiness of the plaza hit me. More memories came rushing back. I wrote about it this way in my memoir, Alive in the Sunshine:
“When I emerge from the subway on to street level, I am face-to-face with the Duomo. It is a spectacular sight. I go in and get weepy yet again. Later, ignoring the vicious heat, I ascend to the roof and walk among the statues and carvings within each spire.”
Now, on this fraught Easter Sunday, Andrea Bocelli begins to sing Amazing Grace into the void and the tears come streaming down my face. They lay in images of empty streets and sights in Paris and London and I begin crying harder. Oh my God. Everything is so empty. By the time the shot of New York appears, I am wrecked.
Wrecked for my friend who lost both parents in 10 days. Wrecked for the stranger on Twitter who wondered how she had a live husband just 24 hours ago. Wrecked for the people whose loved ones are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and their ceaseless wondering. Wrecked for destroyed livelihoods. Wrecked for people stuck in their homes with abusers. Wrecked for medical professionals who are bone tired and crying into cameras to share their pain. Wrecked for the grocery clerks who never signed up for risking their lives.
I let it all come. I’m aware it’s the healthiest thing I can do. That I need to release it.
When I let myself feel my feelings, I am a puddle.
In the spirit of this blessed holiday, may we rise again.