There are cancer survivors choking on phlegm in Seattle.
There are deserted streets in Italy.
Body bags being zipped.
Toilet paper disappearing.
Democrats blaming Trump; Trump blaming the Democrats.
They say the world won’t end with a bang, but instead, a quiet whimper, and I feel like the whimpering is getting louder, these days, and then, how, do we live despite the whimpering?
I am an Emergency Room nurse, one who has been taken as a patient to the ER, blue-lipped with asthma, not moving air, coughing so hard the floors reach up, doors turn sideways, the edges of vision turning dark.
So you count. You count the times you’ve been potentially exposed to COVID-19. You count the amount of respirators available. You count the people being tested. You count because you know with your asthma that each day you’re able to count as symptom free is the best kind of day.
“What’s your take on this all?”
I get this text multiple times a day. I point people to the CDC, to the statistics. I point out the mortality rate. I remind people that just because they’re young and healthy doesn’t mean their duty ends for the elderly and sickly.
“You will be okay,” I tell people. “But your parents might not.”
I am not an expert. I have heard the way the virus attaches to a cell, rewrites the DNA, clogs the small little arteries in your lungs responsible for oxygenation. I have heard the reports of people suffocating, drowning on their own secretions.
What’s true anymore? What’s media hype? And my personal favorite: the Russians are messing with the election. Seriously. Bravo. Please book your upcoming cruise. We need to quarantine this level of ignorance out in the middle of the ocean.
How to carry on, then, in the face of all…. this?
“What you carry is what defines you,” Mitch Albom writes in his latest book. “It can be a burden of feeding your family, the responsibility of caring for patients, the good that you feel you must do for others, or the sins that you will not release. Whatever it is, we all carry something, every day.”
For me, and for all my healthcare friends and colleagues, we are responsible to carry an incredibly scared society. We are responsible to show up, arm ourselves with knowledge, and meticulously follow the rules to ensure the best outcomes possible. We are responsible to put on gowns and masks and still let our smile reach the scared, the vulnerable. We are responsible to take a pulse, start IVs, and swab people’s throats. We carry the weight of stepping toward the disaster while others walk away. And we are blessed with this duty. We are. We really are.
For you, and all your friends, you carry the weight of a tired world. You carry the weight of caring for your families, for not feeding the mania with anxiety, for washing your hands and staying home more and taking food to your parents and grandparents so they don’t have to get out. You carry the weight of making toilet paper jokes to relieve the tension because if ever we need some humor, it’s now. You carry the weight of kindness, for texting that nurse or paramedic or doctor you know and saying simply thank you. You carry the responsibility of quiet waiting and careful decisions.
And when the carrying gets too hard? When the fear takes hold or growing cynasim makes you angry?
I find the answer while the morning sun warms the world outside and while Ervin grumps at the deer bedded down in the trees. I find it on the pages and it’s almost as if God has stepped close and whispered the words: You can have peace, here with me. In this world, you may experience trouble. But take heart, tired one, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).
It’s incredibly unpopular to fall back on faith in these times. It’s easier to blame, easier to rely solely on science, easier to buy every Clorox wipe on the shelf, but it’s okay, friends, to recognize that a healthy dose of educated responsibility coupled with a quiet, trusting faith in a God who cares is how we are going to get through.
So let’s get on with getting through, shall we?