Letters to Home: Comfort in the Time of Pandemic

Dear bro,

I love you. I know it’s not my normal starting phrase, but now that we all are fighting the coronavirus, it should be the first words out of the mouths of everyone these days.

There are famous people being reported as passing due to complications due to the virus; if that doesn’t make all of us more nervous, nothing will. I know that most people will know someone who gets the virus. It seems to spread so easily. Poor New York City, the place in the U.S. with the highest percentage of cases.

I decided on Monday 3/16 that I would go to work on St. Patrick’s Day and make it my last day at work with others around. I went to bed that night and my mind played games on me and I saw myself dying if I were to catch this virus.

That sure sobered me up. Why was I risking my life and going to work every day? I am high risk — age, asthma and auto-immune disease are the primary ones, but I have a few things the doctors are watching that would add even more risk to me.

I have always gotten up and kept going. I work in a field that is critical to keeping the economy going per the list of critical professions. Part of me wanted to keep going to work — I mean, all my co-workers are still going to work every day.

But my heart said I should be fearfully cautious. I listened to my heart and proceeded to head home and will stay “sheltering in place” for a while.

I feel bad for anyone that must go to work now. The one morning I went out last week to get some medicine was eerie. The roads are almost deserted. On the interstate, the traffic was going the speed limit. This virus has changed the world as we have come to know it.

I did some research about epidemics. You see, I am a logical person. I wanted to know what illnesses have overwhelmed the U.S. in the past. There are quite a few, and they happen on a regular basis.

Here goes (data from Healthline.com):

  1. 1633-1634, Smallpox brought to the American Indians; they lost 70 percent of their population.
  2. 1793, Yellow fever.
  3. 1832-1866, Cholera in three waves.
  4. 1858, Scarlet fever.
  5. 1906-1907, Typhoid fever.
  6. 1918, Spanish flu.
  7. 1921-1925, Diphtheria epidemic.
  8. 1916 – 1955, Polio.
  9. 1981-1991, Measles.
  10. 2010 & 2014, Whooping cough.
  11. 1980’s to present, HIV and AIDS.

This virus isn’t a “kid’s disease.” It affects everyone — no matter your race, sex, age, financial status or lifestyle.

We will all either get sick or know someone who has. As I type this, I have had one friend tested and found negative and another who is in isolation at the hospital awaiting the results of the test. Okay, I have to say it: “This is scary as hell!”

I know pandemics have happened throughout the world’s history. Medical professionals and scientists work to find cures and better procedures. Sickness is just part of life.

I look at the list I researched and realize that nothing on the list since 1955 (when I was born) until now has really affected me. I had the measles, mumps, and whooping cough – they were just part of my growing up. There weren’t any vaccines for them back then; they just made the rounds every year.  I do have a polio vaccine, so I am “protected” from it. I even got my flu shot this year.

We as a people have had a good life for more than a century with no large-scale threats on the scale of this coronavirus. We have been blessed a long time.

Now I’m working from home.  When I left work on 3/17, I was set to have all this be almost over and return to work on Monday, 3/30. The number of cases would stabilize, and it would be safe to go to work again. That sure hasn’t happened.

Last week when the Governor of Georgia said people in the high-risk groups should self-isolate through 4/5, I thought I could return to work on Monday, 4/6. But today the President said he was extending self-isolation through April 30th.

Considering that I have lived alone most of my life, you would think that would be easy for me. It sure hasn’t been!

On Tuesday 3/24, I went to the grocery store for milk, bread and eggs. My supply was running out. I went with no mask, no gloves; it was senior hours. I should be okay. I got everything I needed.

This week I can’t imagine going to the store, even during senior hours, without a mask and gloves.

My church is trying to maintain normal services, so I attended church last Sunday.  I was in my pajamas still. It was done as a Facebook Live. I put it up on the TV so it was on the “big screen.” It wasn’t the same as going to church. By the looks of those who watched, there were a lot of our regulars watching — but still, it isn’t the same as going.

So today, I wanted to get away from all this talk of viruses and sickness and isolation.  I tried working in the house with music going; nope, that didn’t work. I tried cleaning the gutter over the deck; nope, that didn’t help. I turned on Pandora and listened to the Amy Grant station; nope, that didn’t work. My pastor asked me to preach next week, so I worked on a sermon, looked up scriptures. I read lots of things, looked for peace; again nope, that didn’t calm my fears.

But I did find one passage that many people should take comfort from. If more people took comfort from it, maybe we wouldn’t have so many empty store shelves. It goes like this:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out -— in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? Galatians 5:13-15 (The Message)

I know this topic may not seem related to my usual meditations on being an out lesbian — but this virus knows no sexual orientation, gender, race, religious belief, socio-economic level or even education. It’s a bug that doesn’t discriminate. It’s terrorizing us all equally.

So when I found those verses, I found some peace in how to be free from this virus’s hold. We need to live out these verses today.

I love you bro.

alyce