I feel absurd writing this….
To the few reading this who will not be with us next year. It probably won’t be you, it probably won’t be me, but it may be true that at least one or two of us will not be here to read and write much more.
Your life had purpose, your life had meaning, you were loved, you were appreciated. You made a world of difference to hundreds of people, you will be remembered with nothing but affection and fondness and charity by people who will always love you in your absence, and be remembered with very few things less charitable than laughter by the people who didn’t. The world was a better, more interesting place for your being here. Whenever we remember this period, we will always remember the lost, we will think of you, and even as our hearts are empty for knowing you are no longer here, they’ll fill up again for the privilege of having known you. Your suffering will be over, you will rest, and one day, sooner than we realize, we may yet see you again.
To those who are about to lose their jobs, lose their homes, get a divorce, sap their education funds for their children, deplete their life savings, to those whose relationship with the people they’re under quarantine with will become much more difficult, perhaps even ruined, it will probably not be you or me, but the chances of it being us rather than someone else are much higher.
None of us know what happens next, but you don’t go through a crisis like this without it triggering the possibility of many more. Many businesses will fold in the next while, and the ones who don’t may have mass layoffs, the value of currency could very well fluctuate in every conceivable direction, investments may mean very little, savings accounts may be run through like a sieve, debts will be run up even much more than they are already. Life flows like a river, bad experiences follow good and then good experiences return, humiliations follow triumphs which follow humiliations. But we will all feel some share of this together. Many people have thought in the last while, occasionally including me, that there is no point to suffering, and that any notion that there is nobility in suffering only excuses the people who inflict it. Dispel with that belief as soon as you can. There is no life without suffering, it is an inevitable portion of life’s cycle, your children will remember your trials, they’ll tell what you endured to your grandchildren, and one day they will all begin to understand, and they will feel gratitude that you endured so much to bring them life. At some point, prosperity will return, it is inevitable. The point of life is not our solid achievements, which can always disappear in the blink of an eye, the point of life is life, and enduring bitter experience is part of what creates in us the will to live. You will live more, you will experience better times, and you will provide better times for the people you love.
To the doctors, nurses, hospital and nursing home staff, public health officials, home caregivers, orderlies, government officials and civil servants.
This is the moment you’ve been training for your whole lives. You know that we’re all dependent on you. You have to embody the strength and authority none of the rest of us have, and if you don’t have it in yourself, you need to act as though you do and get whatever help you need to summon it. You will be faced with the choice who will live and who will die. No matter how many people you save, some people are going to call you murderers. Be ready for it. Some people will express their gratitude by spitting on you. A few of you will get infected so many times that you won’t make it through this either. The rest of you may find yourselves turning to very destructive behaviors in your downtime that you would never advise for the people you serve. But whenever you get through this, whatever else you’ve done, you will always be heroes to your communities, you will have the gratitude of every family with a life you saved, and even the gratitude of many families with lives you couldn’t, and will be able to live the rest of your lives knowing you saved many more people who will never even know how much you did for them.
To those who are about to lose people they love, perhaps even watch them die, perhaps even be unable to watch them die. And though we hope otherwise, there is a chance that may be most of us.
This is the hardest job of all. Circumstances will beset our brains with delusions about what’s possible, our hearts will break a dozen times, our souls will collapse another dozen under the exhaustion of it all. There is nothing in the world that will give us the endurance that may soon be demanded of us. But nothing is written in stone. The more you’re able to distance yourself from others now, the less people you love you’ll be separated from later. But there will, of course, be moments when you can’t help yourself: to stop the stir-craziness you’ll hug the people you love, you’ll go out to crowded public places, you’ll eat too far into your emergency supplies, you’ll take too long to wash dishes, you’ll have sex, you may even forget to wash your hands for a day at a time. We’re all extremely fallible, and if people we love die, we’re going to beat ourselves up every day for the things we might have been able to do to prevent it. But so will everybody else. Whomever we hate now, we all will bind each other’s wounds. Whomever we don’t forgive now, our sins against each other will be like wool. Whatever guilt we feel, we will not forsake each other. And as the darkness deepens and helpers fail, we will abide.