BG
BG

Subscribe

Write for us

Editorial Staff

This Too Shall Pass?

Hope and community amid disaster

Edwidge Danticat
Edwidge Danticat
Edwidge Danticat is the author of numerous books. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow.

“I hope that by the time you read this . . .” So would end many notes and letters I used to write to the people I love, before email and text existed. If it was a letter to a sick friend, I’d write, “I hope that by the time you read this, you’re already feeling better.” If it was a note of condolence, I’d write, “I hope by the time you read this, your sorrow has been lifted, just a little.” Because there was a delay between the time I’d scribble my handwritten note and put it in the mail and the time the person on the other end would receive it, I expected some change to have already occurred, some shift to have taken place, and I always hoped it would be for the better. Never did I think to write, “Things might have fallen apart by the time you read this.” Time, I always wished, would improve terrible circumstances. This too, I hoped, would pass.

Like perhaps a great number of people, I used to think that the phrase “This too shall pass” was from the Bible, a Bible I spent my childhood listening to my minister uncle preach from when I was a girl in Haiti. Perhaps this saying, which some, including Abraham Lincoln, believed originated with King Solomon, is so often cited as a biblical verse because the Bible, in so many instances, offers similar advice on the impermanence of suffering. Growing up in a family, and in a country, where people were suffering – from poverty, illness, and political strife – I would often hear my uncle quote from Corinthians: “But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day” (2 Cor. 4:16 CEB).

“This too shall pass,” friends kept telling me, and writing to me, and texting me, when word of the novel coronavirus began to make front-page news in the United States. Living with my eighty-five-year-old mother-in-law and an immunocompromised teenager, I was of course worried. Should I stop traveling for work? Should we all self-quarantine? Should I pull both my daughters out of school, even when the danger still seemed far away?

Continue reading at Plough Quarterly.