Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

While I wait, impatiently, to get the Covid-19 vaccine, I can look back at the last year with some appreciation. I’ve learned a lot, although the victories have often been hard won.  

I’ve never been good at technology. Designing my own web site was pure torture, which is one reason it took almost a year to complete it. But with the pandemic, I (and the rest of the world) have had to live most of my life online—chatting with friends, talking to my doctor, and now signing up for the vaccine. (For seniors who don’t have computers, this part has been a challenge.)

I think I’ve mastered Zoom (except for the white light from my webcam that makes my face look ghostly), although it probably took a good six months to become comfortable with it. For the first few months I found myself staring at my image on the screen: was that really how I looked?

Since the pandemic, I’ve attended online conferences and talks that I probably wouldn’t have gone to in person for a variety of reasons—too late at night, too cold out, no place to park. Now, from the comfort of my home, I’ve learned about Boulder’s watershed, been inspired by spiritual teachers from around the country and listened to two of my favorite nature writers talk about the climate crisis.

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Last Words from the Grave

By reading these words, you’ve probably figured out that I’ve left this life and am headed to my next destination. I’m looking forward to the journey.”

I found these first lines from a self-written obituary in the local newsletter. I had to reread those sentences before comprehending that, first, someone had managed to write their own obituary, and, second, that person was a former neighbor. I knew that writing your own obituary, if you have that luxury, is something that’s becoming more popular. But it’s still a shock that someone who was dying would have enough composure to celebrate his life.

What kind of person is able to record the details of their life, knowing that these will be their final words? Dan, my old neighbor, had a great sense of humor and a big heart; he was always happy to share stories with me about the history of our small mountain community. He had the wonderful ability of not taking himself too seriously, which comes out loud and clear in the obituary. After Dan wrote in his obit that he got a master’s degree in clinical pharmacology, he added: “I know it’s not as impressive to you academics as a PhD, but it worked for me.”

How do you sum up your life? What do you say about yourself? What do you emphasize and what do you ignore? It seems a tricky endeavor, harder than having your survivors—spouse, children, friend—write your obit after you die. Friends and family might be able to easily list your accomplishments, but only you can emphasize what was most important in your life.  

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Dodging a Bullet

Everyday, almost the first thing in the morning, I read the local newspaper to find out the most recent number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 in my county. The daily tabulation belies the pain and tragedies of this pandemic: 145 new cases, no deaths on Monday; 180 new cases, one death on Tuesday; 110 cases, two deaths on Wednesday. Although no names are given for the pandemic’s latest victims, the news reports give their ages and whether they were residents of a senior group home: one in their 70s; one in their 60s; two in their 80s; two of the deceased in a long-term facility.

Almost all the deaths are people over 60, with many in their 80s. Because I’m 71, it feels like death is knocking on doors all around me, that it comes blowing down the streets and paths of my town, skirting the edges of my house. I shut myself in, close the windows, lock the doors and try to turn away. But it’s out there.

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