I am at a candlelight vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Holding my battery operated rainbow tea light in the palm of my hand, I think about RBG and how hard she fought against time and cancer. She was a small, elderly woman with the weight of democracy on her shoulders who kept fighting for us until her tiny body couldn’t support the burden one more day. She is gone and I am now very afraid for the future of many of the people I love.
More people are coming, which is both good and bad. I haven’t been in a crowd in over six months and even though we’re all outside and everyone is wearing a mask, I’m nervous. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come. I didn’t go to the Black Lives Matter marches for fear of exposing myself to COVID and then taking it home to my daughter. Across the street, two police cars are parked and the officers inside are staring at us. I look at the people around me and wonder what makes the police so watchful. This crowd is mostly white, middle aged, upper middle class women like me. The most radical thing here are the four women wearing pink pussy hats. Looking back at the police I feel sadder.
I came tonight because I need to take a moment from my fearful, pandemic driven life and grieve. I mourn the 200,000 Americans and the millions killed around the world by COVID. I mourn lost Black lives. I mourn the thousands who lost their homes to wildfire and those who died when they couldn’t escape. I mourn for the elderly trapped in nursing homes and the children kept away from their friends. I mourn for everyone who is terrified and lonely and has no idea how they’ll survive another day.
I wonder if Ruth felt that way? For all her notoriety, she was still a human being fighting cancer during a pandemic and trying to keep her job. Did she have doubts? Was she lonely? Did she cry when she listened to the news too?
Three young men approach me and one asks, “What’s going on? Why are all these people here?”
“This is a candlelight vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” I say. “She died yesterday. “
“Who’s that?” he says. The other two shrug. So I tell them about RGB and why everyone is so upset and what’s at stake with the Supreme Court. I explain what she fought for and how she protected Civil Rights. They’re impressed.
“Did she believe in Black Lives Matter?” another young man asks.
One of them will turn 18 in two months, too late to vote in this election, which makes him mad. We talk more about voting and why it matters and then they wander away but stay close to the perimeter, talking and watching the vigil. RBG would be pleased.
More people are coming and it’s getting harder to keep my distance; time to leave. I look at my rainbow tea light change from red to purple and smile. A rainbow candle for RGB. I wish it was safe to stay and share the grief and fear with other people and I realize how much I miss this. I have been grieving all alone for too long, just like everyone at this vigil I suspect. I walk away from the crowd, get in my car, and drive back to isolation.