Ours is an era that will live on through the history books, and perhaps through enduring transformations for humanity. And right now, ours is a time of erupting change, much more for many than for me, although I feel my ground shaking, too.
I live in a large retirement community, a place that has been my home since my 62nd birthday, the age of eligibility, when I moved in to be with my mother, Doris. We had two-and-a-half blessed years together in our little apartment, where I have remained. Because I am healthy and active, I might not have moved to the community if my mother had not already been here, but I would not give up a second of the time Mother and I had together, and I do not consider moving now. Here I have found a community of dear friends, including a friend whom I consider my sister-friend because we are kindred spirits. Other than distant cousins I haven’t met, my living relatives are eight cousins who live hundreds of miles away. But here where I live, I have the gift of a sense of family and community, both of which have always been profoundly important to me.
Following the Pennsylvania governor’s guidelines, we in our community had been asked a couple of weeks ago to avoid leaving the campus and to stay six feet apart from one another. Seeing some wiggle room there, my sister-friend and I were getting together late each afternoon to eat our dinner together, read things that inspire us, share our thoughts and feelings, and watch the news. We sat six-feet apart in my friend’s apartment, which is considerably larger than mine, and I wore vinyl gloves if I used her computer.
This past Saturday evening, March 28, my friend and I had finished eating and were listening to music on the television when a robocall came in to let everyone know that beginning the next day, Sunday, we needed to stay inside our own apartments for two weeks, at least. I cried a little, knowing that life was changing even more than it had already and that I would be missing seeing my friend. I had known in the back of my mind that becoming quarantined was probably inevitable, but meeting the reality was a little daunting.
But now I have a better sense of what people in countries such as Italy, Spain, and China have faced and are facing, and how it is for New Yorkers. At the same time, I realize that I am profoundly blessed. We’ve had one case of the virus in our community, but my friends and I are well, as are my cousins in the South. I am active—able to jump around in front of the TV to get my exercise—have lots of interests, and best of all, can talk by phone with my friends nearby and in distant points. Facebook helps me to feel connected with my international friends, including the several living in Italy.
But even in our community, where the employees are delivering meals, helping folks figure out how to walk their dogs, planning to deliver mail, even willing to drop off a needed roll of toilet paper, some of the residents are less able than I am to deal with the challenges. Our community director and medical director hold regular call-in shows on our closed-circuit television station, and on Sunday, the first day of the quarantine, a woman called in who was clearly having a full-blown anxiety attack. And again, all of us here are the fortunate ones compared to what so many are suffering.
After the worst of the coronavirus has passed, what will remain of the changes we are making now to try to rid the world of the virus? Will we continue to be kinder and more helpful to one another, more grateful for all we have and to those who risk their own wellbeing to serve, more attentive to the needs of the Earth and Nature? To what extent will we return to so-called normal? Whatever the answers to these questions, I will mark this past Saturday night, March 28, 2020, as the night I fully became part, in my small way, of the world’s shared efforts to stop COVID-19.
And Saturday, March 28, 2020, would have been my father’s 100th birthday. On March 11, the second-to-last day that I was out and about, I attended a one-day retreat at the nearby Franciscan Spiritual Center with my sister-friend. The retreat included time for silent meditation. During the first quiet time, I clearly saw in my mind my parents reaching out to me in love. I believe they were expressing their understanding of what the world was facing and of the experiences about to reach my friends, neighbors, and me. They were saying, I think, “We are with you.” I believe they are. And I believe that all human beings have love reaching out to them from the other side. I wish that everyone could also know the sense of love and comfort that I am blessed to find inside my everyday life.