Today was our second vaccine clinic and more than 400 people, staff as well as elders, received the COVID vaccination, some for the first round and the majority for the second. It’s a day we have longed for, wished for and even prayed for and, as it comes to an end, I find myself filled with powerful emotions.
When I walked the halls weeks ago, working hard to convince staff to take the vaccine and to put their fears aside, we talked about the year we have all lived through. I reminded them of what last spring felt like, the helplessness we felt when we didn’t have adequate testing and when so many of our elders were becoming ill. As we stood together in small groups, we remembered the plastic tarps being erected, creating COVID units and turning our familiar surroundings into something altogether foreign, altogether strange.
And we talked about the elders we loved and lost, the family members and friends this virus has claimed. The long road back for both our elders and some of our staff who fought the battle with COVID and won.
None of us was left unscathed by this year of COVID. We have faced the unimaginable, we have been without resources or help or answers and yet we swallowed our fears and did what we had to do. We scrounged and scraped for what we needed, fought to find answers and saved many more lives than we lost.
I see the toll this year has taken in the eyes of our caregivers. I see it in their faces. They are, we all are, weary from the struggle, worn from the anxiety we have all carried heavy on our shoulders since March. Today that needle in the arm was not just vaccine going in, it was the weight being lightened. It is not gone. This is not over. But these immunizations are a gift of life, a step on the road back to normalcy, to regaining a life in which we can hug our elders and hug each other, when our faces are not hidden by masks and we can come together as a community once again.
Today feels like a new day, a day when safety feels within our grasp. We must all continue to be vigilant, to be vaccinated when we can and look forward to a time when COVID is a memory and not our daily reality.