Yesterday marked 400,000 people who have died from covid-19 in the United States in just one year.
Now multiply that number by the number of significant relationships in those people’s lives. And we are not done. The U.S. 7 day average for deaths hovers around 3,000 per day.
For people like us (Patti and me), the opportunity to continue working from home, a drive through pharmacy nearby, a grocery store that will shop for my online order and bring my groceries out to my car, and high speed internet, means that we get to live physically distanced and protected. For the most part, so do members of our family, and so we have not yet been hit by covid death.
There is a weariness however, that has almost become the white noise background to our lives. The nature of survival is putting one foot in front of the other, so Patti and I have become used to our routines, taking pleasure in small things...daily fresh air outside, a visit physically distanced with family on the patio, a Zoom visit with our granddaughters coloring together, or our wider family playing Yahtzee or euchre, or cocktails with friends ringing in the New Year. The rest of our time doing ordinary life, taking a walk down the street, reading, writing, cooking, eating, cleaning, napping (that is me :-)).
But we have not become ill (nor any of our family), forced to go to the hospital, faced being alone, or unable to be with each other, and saying goodbye on FaceTime, or not at all, and grieving at home alone. We are privileged in ways that many people simply are not.
Yesterday Joe and Jill Biden, with Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, gathered on the mall to grieve and honor the 400,000 who have died, and all those people who love them. It was the FIRST national moment of grieving in the year of covid.
After the ceremony, I watched an interview with Kristin Urquiza, founder of “Marked by COVID”, an organization that connects people who are grieving the loss of someone they love, and speaks out about how the actions of politicians, their rhetorical messaging, and policy decisions, cause suffering and death, particularly disproportionately among people of color. Kristin’s father, Mark, was an active supporter of Donald Trump. He believed lies that he was being told by his President. He died from covid-19 in June 2020. In the interview yesterday, Kristin spoke of how 5 members of her extended family have died from covid-19 in this past year. Five members of her family!
When we first became aware of the virus pandemic, I recall listening to one medical scientist who suggested that we learn to live as if we have the disease, and strive to protect others, stay at safe distances, wear a mask, avoid being indoors with others outside of our immediate family. The point was that the world is very interconnected and what we choose to do has an impact on others. To the extent that we have choices, the choices we make matter.
The arrival of a pandemic could’a been something that makes clear that we are all connected, as one humanity, one species living together all other species, on one planet that is home. It could’a been our empathy wake up call. It could’a been our clarion survival call to recognize that we are all connected, and our survival depends on the survival of others.
Today is the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States of America. Joseph R. Biden will not be a perfect President, but almost 50 years of public service have made clear that he is a decent empathic man, who will do what he can to nourish that decency in our country. We can pause for a moment, to breathe out, after 4 years of the minefield of political trauma, with 400,000 dead and 3,000 more dying each day.
I pause and look at the images of Kristin and her father Mark, breathe in, breathe out noticing, it could’a been me.