As is my morning routine in retirement I pour a cup a coffee, open up the Boston Globe and head to the section on obituaries. I am not proud of starting off the day with an overview of those fellow humans who have passed in the last few days, but as a member of the senior set such an exercise comes with the territory.
In the last few weeks the short bios of those smiling faces now gone to their eternal rest have multiplied to encompass a whole section of the newspaper. Many of the obits added a phrase like ” succumbed to the Covid” or ” died fighting the Covid-19.” The majority of the bios with the smiling faces do not mention the cause of death or Covid but it is a safe assumption that the virus has claimed an ever increasing number of my age group.
Staring at the death notices does remind me of my mortality, although I brush off the dismal thoughts and move on to the sports section. But what lingers on in my thoughts is the impact of the virus on my family – my wife Carol, our three daughters, our sons in law and our four grandchildren. All of us have dreams and plans, hopes for the future and an inner confidence that because we are Americans all will get better and return to the life we all led before Covid-19. As we believe with little hesitation, science will save us, a vaccine will be developed, the economy will return from the abyss, and all of us will continue to enjoy good times again.
But at the same time I tell myself that normalcy, real normalcy, i.e. the good ol’days, is really two years away. No matter what our president says, we are on a long journey to finally beat the virus. Sure there will be slow and partial openings of the economy, a return to work for a new definition of essential workers, and a feeling of relief that we are on the right track to defeat the virus.
Yet I keep thinking of my family- their world will change dramatically, as it has already. While those obituaries may decline in number, there could be another spike down the road, a new pandemic to face, an economy stuck in years of weakness. Sadly, unexpected death, cruel death, lonely death will remain a fixture of the way we will live for longer than we hope.
Hope, however, is what we have in abundance in this country and hope will get us through this crisis. Americans have always been about the future; we possess an unfailing optimism. What is in short supply these days is realism and a practical understanding of the enormous challenges we will face to not only beat the virus but also to reshape our world in ways that improve the way we think and live. As Dr. Anthony Fauci says quite accurately, there is no magic light switch that turns on the economy or for that matter returns us to the good ol’days. This will be a struggle, a long march with disappointments and sadness, and yes many obituaries.
It is thus important to accept the reality of disappointments and sadness and many obituaries, but at the same time to infuse that reality with hope and optimism. We’ll get through this together but not tomorrow or the next day or for that matter the next year.