Raw. Bitter. Numbing. Brutal.
Take your pick, because this cold wave requires an adjective — an added word to communicate the life-threatening effects of sub-zero temperatures and abominable wind chills.
Some claim a cold snap is good. It kills off some of the invasive pests brought north by climate change.
The hard freeze improves the texture of the soil and ensures the dormancy plants need to marshal their resources for the warmth to come.
Still, it is hard on many. We are not as active, not out as much. A pall of grey covers the cold.
We are driven inside and driven inside ourselves.
This can be a quiet, reflective time for some. But for others — for many others — the cold confines them to a sadness that is much deeper, much lonelier.
For those who have lost a loved one, who struggle with depression, who grieve a broken bond, or those in pain over the sickness or addictions of someone close to them, the dark cold of winter is an unending, demonic night.
Bestselling author Abraham Verghese is also a medical doctor. He believes, as do his main characters who are doctors, that healers can best learn from their patients.
He tells the story of one of his, a hemophiliac who died on his watch after contracting HIV-AIDS from his numerous transfusions.
The young man came from a very poor family, and his disease was yet another stress on his overburdened parents.
As a child, he would suffer episodes of bleeding into his joints. At that time, before Factor 8, he would need to be hospitalized and receive plasma infusions.
Often, these bleeds would happen at night. He didn’t want to wake his parents because they would get up and spend the night applying ice packs and trying to comfort him. Both had two jobs and little enough sleep as it was.
So the child would stoic-up and, unable to sleep himself, play “Joy Comes In the Morning” over and over on his record player until morning did come.
“Hold on my child ... / Joy comes in the morning / Weeping only lasts for the night / Hold on my child ... / Joy comes in the morning / The darkest hour means the dawn is just in sight.”
Assailed by the chilling grief of winter, we need to find a faith, a song, a memory, or a friend we can hang onto until our morning again springs forth with joy.
And it surely will.