As of today Jan. 29, 2021, over 25 million cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the United States. Over 420,000 lives have ended way too soon. This is a national tragedy repeated every 29 seconds. This tragic loss of life is now surpassing all other conditions, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The story below is but one story, but it emphasizes the unimaginable devastation nonetheless:
She sat beside the hospital bed of the man she loved with all her life with all heart. She was gowned, gloved and masked. He drifted in and out of consciousness as she watched his labored breathing. She thought a few times he was trying to smile, but it was probably just her imagination. Did he even know she was here? Did she tell him she loved him enough before he got sick? Probably not!
She looked down at his hand, his palm down on top of hers. She knows these hands — she’s seen and watched them many, many times, over the decades. She has memorized his hands; all the lines, all the wrinkles, all the imperfections. She remembers the excitement of holding his hand on their first date, nervously grasping both of them on her wedding day, watching them as they spread out on her protruding belly as he felt the kick of their first child. Yes, she indeed knew these hands, and she so loved these hands, imperfections and all.
She then brought his hand up against her cheek and gently kissed his palm. She thought to herself, “these hands were once strong, now they seemed so frail — they once looked young with barely a wrinkle, now the skin looked thin almost translucent. They were once powerful and confident hands. Now they had a slight tremor as he struggled to breath. But they were still the hands of the only man she ever gave her heart to. The hands of her dear, dear, sweet husband, whom she could not imagine ever living without. Tears welled up in her eyes and trickled down her cheek, landing on his hand.
In her mind loomed one thought — why?
Today, because of COVID, loss is all around us now. Every day the numbers creep higher. Sometimes I wonder who in my world could be next, or perhaps even me. If you are honest, these thoughts have crossed your mind as well. Do you know what the hardest thing for me to grasp is? The numbers don’t seem to end. They continue to climb. Every single day they get larger. But being human, we are really, really good at denying reality. That is when it’s someone else’s reality, and not our reality.
We are really good at pretending that it’s all a big conspiracy; that is, until it’s not anymore. We can try to convince ourselves that it’s not any worse than the flu; that is, until it’s not anymore. We can walk around maskless and get angry at the stores, or at store clerks who ask us to please mask up. We can choose to live in a dissimulated world where reality is not real; that is, until it is real.
OK, OK, I know, and you know, some will never face reality, until reality comes knocking. The problem is when reality knocks, it’s too late!
Here is the cookies on the bottom shelf reality — over 400,000 Americans are gone, never, ever, to return. These lives are not numbers. They are sons, they are daughters, they are mothers, they are fathers, they are aunts, they are uncles, they are grandmothers, they are grandfathers.
But whether you deny or embrace the reality or not, permit me to end with a word on the sanctity and preciousness of every life.
One thing we can all do, maskers and non-maskers alike: We can always value the invaluable gift of life. We can cherish those we love while they are here. We can tell those we love that we love them as often as we can.
A song by the Gaither Vocal Band says it all: “Hold tight to the sounds of the music of living, happy songs from the laughter of the children at play. Hold my hand as we run through the sweet fragrant meadows, making memories of what was today. We have this moment to hold in our hands, and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand. Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”
Dr. Stride has been a senior pastor and a practicing psychotherapist. He has worked in behavioral and forensic mental health for over 30 years as a counselor, clinical director and senior executive. He served eight years as a captain in the United States Army Reserve. He enjoys teaching, public speaking and prides himself on being a student of history. He is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.