I’m writing this on the last Sunday of 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus that has taken over a million seven-hundred lives worldwide, the virus that has totally disrupted our normal come-and-go. We wear facial masks now—at least we should—and we keep our distance from one another, and we avoid gatherings, and we wash our hands, and still the virus surges. We make choices to avoid in-door dining. We make hard choices about whether to see family and friends. Last semester, I taught my classes online from home, and I’ll do the same this coming semester. and still the virus surges. We have two vaccines now to give us a glimmer of hope as we head into 2021, but for now the virus continues to surge. I’ll admit it’s sometimes tempting to let pessimism have its rule, but I’m trying hard to stay on the brighter side of my view to the future.
My efforts to stay positive took a dark turn early on the morning of December 8, when my wife Cathy, in excruciating abdominal pain, said, “I think you’re going to have to call the ambulance.”
I know there are people who have suffered so much this year, have suffered more than Cathy and I did that morning and the ten days of hospital stay beyond it, but I also know the devastating feeling of having the EMTs take the love of my life away from me, and I, due to COVID, being unable to follow.
Cathy had emergency surgery that evening, and I waited by the phone for someone from the hospital to call. How could I not imagine what it’s like for those whose loved ones have had to be hospitalized with COVID, or those whose family members have been isolated in nursing home or care facilities? Cathy told me later, once we were on the other side of her emergency, that she never once thought that she wouldn’t come home. Whenever that thought came to me in the time we were apart, I pushed it away, unwilling to allow that possibility. Instead, I exercised when I could, wrote when I could, read when I could, talked to Cathy when she was able to talk, and took care of our home and our orange tabby, Stella the Cat. All I could do was let the days go on. We learn this as we get older—on occasion, all you can do is give yourself over to the forward movement of time.
Finally on December 18, Cathy was strong enough to come home. I delighted in her first words to me when I collected her at the hospital entrance: “I’m ready to blow this Popsicle stand!” And blow it we did.
I’ve always given thanks for each minute I have with Cathy, but even more so now when I think of all the COVID patients who didn’t get to come home and all the family members who’d give anything to have one minute more with their loved ones, or at least to have been able to be with them when they passed.
What this has to do with writing, I’m not sure, but maybe there’s something here about love and kindness. I know it’s been a tough writing year for many of us, and for others it’s been a year of escaping into our work and producing pages. No matter the way the pandemic has affected our , writing, we should pause to appreciate each minute that’s ours and to fill those minutes with whatever we think will sustain us. We should be kind to ourselves and to others. We should face reality and yet not give in to despair. As the dark days of January and February descend, we should remember the spring that lies beyond the darkness. These coming days may be grim indeed, but I give thanks that Cathy came home, and I do my best daily to choose hope over despair, work over idleness, and love, always love.