In 2031 imagine your grandchild running into your kitchen grabbing a chocolate chip cookie and asking, “Grandma, what do you remember about the pandemic in 2020?”
What do you say? How do you describe this year with so many challenges and unexpected rays of sunshine? How do you reply about a year that has taken at least 1,566,088 lives worldwide thus far with this novel coronavirus?
Is there a single memory that rises above the others in your lexicon of recollections?
I have such an evocative impression that summarizes this pandemic year for me. I am not sure what it means–perhaps it doesn’t signify anything. But it haunts the bones and kidneys and larynx of this body, permeating every cell in a way I don’t understand.
Here is the pandemic story.
Imagine a March afternoon in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan is under lockdown orders. We must work from home, mask, socially distance. Don’t go out unless you have to, officials warn. Many are scared–what is this virus? Will it kill us, our loved ones, our friends? How lethal is it? The Unknown deals its deck of cards but we don’t yet know the rules to the game. We’re clueless.
Most of us stay home. The individual-rights faction has not yet gained their clamouring voices. (Or if they have, I’ve forgotten.)
You hover in your houses, buildings, apartments, condos, tiny homes. Only essential workers–the saints of our pandemic world–venture out. It’s March 2020 and cold shivers throughout the northern hemisphere. Spring hasn’t sprung, and maybe it will never appear again.
After long hours in the four-walled house, I pulled on twenty-year-old University of Michigan insulated pants, a gift from our son back in the day. Donned a matching U of M gray sweatshirt. Layered it with a cozy navy blue fleece jacket. Tied winter boots. Found knit hat and random gloves that didn’t match.
Opened the door and walked outside.
Winter ice sparkles everywhere.
The winter hush of snow blanketing the forest.
Crunch, crunch, crunch as the boots walked atop the plowed driveway toward the mailbox.
Fresh cold air shocking the lungs. Breathe in, breath out.
For a moment the pandemic is forgotten. All that exists: sparkling ice, snow, hush.
I turn on to the back-country road and walk up toward Townline Road, our main artery toward Skanee Road and town.
No tracks on the road anywhere.
No sign of human life.
No distant hum of traffic.
Is there anyone else on earth?
It’s an empty people-less world out here in the woods in March, 2020, as a pandemic begins its relentless climb toward hospitalizations and lingering symptoms and deaths.
I look around at this empty world and this sense of absolute aloneness arises. A thought appears: how do I know anyone else exists? What if I’m all alone in the world? What if I’m the only person on earth?
It’s like awakening in a lucid dream. Everything is crystal clear, hushed, ringing with potential. Everything is still. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…
You’d think you might feel afraid and sad and panicked, but I did not. I somehow felt awed in this awake-dream, totally awed.
The world stood still.
Except. Except. Except.
The Holy is here, so real, so strong, so palpable, so shining, so shivering, so true.
Can you feel it? Can you feel the Presence in the absolute hush of aloneness?
That is what I remember at the core of 2020’s pandemic. That’s what my body recalls. That is what still sings through the ear, the eye, the red beating heart. If a grandchild ever makes his or her way unto this earth–that’s what I will try to convey.
(Or maybe not. It’s impossible to share stories like this in real-time isn’t it? I will say oh we Zoomed with your mama and daddy, I called your great-grandma every day, we stayed inside, and we walked outside, and we were sad because people died and happy because we tried to do our part and not spread the virus more than it was already spreading…)
Do you have a certain memory that stands out from this year? Something that defines the pandemic for you? When you think back is there a defining event that summarizes 2020?
Day 53 of a seventy-five day journey to connect more deeply with God, Spirit, Holy, Love…to explore “What the Heart Knows” during the waning days of 2020.