A Modern Plague:
In previous years, I'd only thought of a disease that could shut down a global economy and take millions of lives as a phenomenon occurring in far distant times, not one afflicting us in a more modern age. After all, the Great Influenza was my grandmother's generation; tuberculosis also afflicted family members of another generation. Images of priests dying over their congregation's prostrate bodies as they performed last rites were relegated to the medieval era of Chaucer. As a United States citizen, I'd heard of swine flu, Ebola, etc.; however, I'd known of few people actually afflicted with those illnesses. As a resident of Louisiana, I'd heard of yellow fever killing many people, but I'd witnessed nothing that took so many lives or disrupted the global economy in such a destructive manner, as has COVID19.
News headlines blare out the number of dead around the globe. The U. S. president and his staff deflect, evade, and sometimes answer questions on the health of the economy as well as the dire shape of our health care system. Foreign leaders field similar questions from their press. None of them know when we will awaken from a nightmare that has left the most vulnerable at risk and helpless to fight a sinister killer. Some will survive; some will die. Ironically, your chances of conquering this killer depend upon the resiliency of your immune system and the strength of your DNA. Scientists and health care workers do not know just what keeps some people healthy or asymptomatic; they don't know why some people are afflicted but recover while others die. It's the proverbial luck of the draw. Yes, we have statistics. Most who die are older or have pre-existing health problems. Some people, however, are young and die. Some were healthy and die. There is still so much we don't know. Will we ever?
My husband and I went to our local grocery last night, wearing masks. I thought of so many of the doctors and nurses I personally know who are fighting this killer on the front lines. They are running out of supplies; they are watching helplessly as people die. Governors plead with the government for more ventilators. My young cousin faces this daily in his job as a nurse. Another young friend is pregnant, nursing ill people while she carries the new life inside her. Then, there are the many people who are silent and often not acknowledged in this battle. My mail carrier comes to our front door wearing a mask and gloves. God bless him as he goes about his job! The garbage collectors pick up the trash placed at the edge of our lawns wearing gloves and masks. The young woman who checked us out last night at the grocery did so behind Plexiglas. She wore a mask and gloves, and I wondered at her resolve. With her long braids and smile behind the mask, she looked no older than the kids I teach. I'm sure she works for minimum wage. I sincerely hope no one ever puts down these people who work minimum wage jobs. These are the people dying and fighting the good fight (along with the health care professionals) so that we still have essential services.
When will our lives be "normal"? I live in New Orleans, in south Louisiana. We are a people who love to hug. We have festivals, many of which have been cancelled until the fall. We host crawfish boils and wine parties; our friends and family gather for New Orleans Saints games. We bury our dead in ceremony and then gather to celebrate those lives. Several friends and relatives of friends have passed since this pandemic invaded our existence; all burials were private--only immediate family could attend. More than anything, we in Louisiana (and I'm sure the rest of the country and the world) want the fabric of our lives to return to what we call normal. I'm sure all of us want to enjoy our lives again, but the fragile fabric of our lives will have been altered; the people who comprised part of its pattern may no longer be within the intricate needlework of our lives. Some of us will no longer have jobs and may miss the people we once knew so intimately. Many of us will mourn those swallowed by this tidal wave of death. COVID19, you are an assassin. Conquer you we will.