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Breathing Again: Long Covid & All the Wrecked Light

by Leah McMicheal

I was a little dizzy when All The Wrecked Light livestreamed during the last week of Lent in 2021. As a grad student, I couldn’t afford to do just one thing at a time, so I was roasting discount vegetables as my wireless headphones negotiated with the Wi-Fi. I only caught snatches of the dove over the water and breath taken back again. Two months into long Covid, that sounded familiar.

The internet and headphones sorted themselves on the wish that there be no prophets and no priests. “This is the way the world ends”—but who hasn’t shrunk from that sacred shadow, especially at the edge of the glory and terror of Holy Week? Yet the story unspooled through sinking sand and scattered ash. Then breath came back to dusty bones. “And I know something of how it shall be,” Cardiff State sang, and I fell in love. I listened to the concert again as I waited for the peppers to roast and my breath-short dizziness to ebb.

Lent tipped toward Holy Week. My church celebrates resurrection with vigils and dancing and trumpets, and when all that was still safely distant, it seemed like a good time to pray for healing. But when we came to Good Friday and Holy Saturday, it was terrifying. What if God didn’t answer? What if he did? On Saturday night, my friends and I prayed a rambling earnest request for the return of breath and strength.

I woke on Easter morning with my lungs aching as they had for weeks. But my thought was threaded with All the Wrecked Light’s final refrain: “This is the way the world begins again. This is the way the world begins again. This is the way the world begins again, though all I hear now is a whisper.” To me it came like a word of openness, expectation. The effort of song still left me coughing at the outdoor Easter service. But we made Christmas bell bracelets and rang in resurrection till the twine broke and the bells scattered golden across the grass.

“This is the way the world begins again.” For two months, every exertion had taken a toll in cough and weariness. I’d learned to pare daily walks down to a block or less, driving even between buildings on Wheaton’s small campus. I expected to pay for Easter on Monday and possibly the rest of the week as well. But I didn’t wake up worse. In faith or foolishness, I decided to walk to campus. Slowly. The magnolia trees were a wonder. The sky was sparkling a little by the time I got to work, but a few minutes on the bench outside put that mostly right. The next day, I walked to class and took out the recycling on foot.

“This is the way the world begins again.” Every venture across campus was at least a minor act of faith. When you speak the world, I will be healed—in an instant or a season, slow as the budding trees. A week after Easter, I walked over a mile on the local trail, listening to All The Wrecked Light yet again. It was the first time I’d walked so far, the first time I’d seen the spring’s wildflowers at the golden hour. The sky was vast behind gilded trees and the grass burned green. “And the first words we must say are ‘the world’s wrought in grace’” sang Cardiff State, and it rang true through and through.

All the Wrecked Light came down from YouTube the day after that. Being musically challenged, I struggled to hold on to the melodies, though I soon had breath enough to sing the fragments I remembered. Life got better: from convalescence and grad school to long walks, work, and a home with friends.

And then came Hutchmoot. The announcement that All the Wrecked Light was being produced as an album sent me careening around the apartment in delight. The concert on Sunday kept me close to tears. This music that companioned me, this story told in breath—it’s back to stay. I’m so grateful to enjoy it and support it. I hope you do the same.


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