In June 2013, I wrote a post on my original blog called “Silver Linings”. That post was about how something good can come out of even the worst situations. In 2013, my concerns were mostly about things that seem a lot less significant now. Back then, I was still very upset with Bill’s ex wife for the horrific damage she wrought on Bill and his daughters. I was angry with Bill’s daughters, too, for rejecting and hurting Bill, and for not being wise enough to see that by pushing him away, they were also hurting themselves. But, as time has passed, Bill has managed to reconnect with his younger daughter. They have talked about what happened after Bill’s divorce, and they’ve learned more about each other and the abuse they both experienced at the hands of Bill’s ex wife. Now, they’re both wiser.
June 2013 was also when my beloved college advisor, Dr. Massie Stinson, passed away after a long illness. Dr. Stinson and I weren’t tremendously close, but he did help me join the Peace Corps and get into graduate school. When he died, I sent a letter to his family via another professor, who is now a friend. A friend who was also an English major at Longwood attended Dr. Stinson’s funeral. She said his family members were very moved by my comments, which made me feel good. I was honored to be able to pass on a few stories about how Dr. Stinson had made my life better.
In that post, I reminisced about our dog, MacGregor, and how he’d died of spinal cancer in December 2012. It was very sad to see him in so much pain and to let him go. But then Bill and I made new friends in the process of adopting Arran, who is still with us and keeps us smiling.
I also mentioned war. War is an awful thing, but good things can come out of war. Many people die because of it, but many people are also born due to war. Cultures are explored out of necessity. Even medical advances are made due to wars. For instance, we have much better prosthetic limbs now than we once had, mainly because it was necessary to develop them due to war injuries. Not everyone who loses a limb will do so because of war, but that technology that came about because of grievously injured people in wars will ultimately benefit everyone, including those who lost limbs due to disease, accidents, or because of congenital defects.
In my time on the planet, I’ve found that most adversarial things we go through somehow also have a positive effect. Even wars and catastrophic illnesses can turn into good things… or can spawn good things. Last night, I read a fascinating article about a very brainy married couple, Laurie and Kevin Hommema. She’s a family practice physician, and he’s an engineer. Together, they came up with a new process to disinfect N95 masks. They were just sitting at their dinner table with their two young daughters, talking about how the masks are in short supply and how she, as a doctor, would not have enough protection in taking care of her patients because of the coronavirus crisis. Her husband remembered a study he’d done through his work. Next thing you know, they’d come up with a plan that is now in action. Machines have been made and are being used in cities around the United States. Necessity is the mother of invention.
The environment is getting better because people are driving and flying less. The air is clearing up and there’s less pollution. Water is becoming cleaner because there are fewer cruise ships. While the reason for the bluer skies and clearer water is sad and scary, it’s still great to see how quickly positive changes are taking place in the environment. And it’s something for us to learn as time goes on. If we change some of our habits, maybe the future, for those of us who survive the pandemic, will be better.
Two years ago, I was one of about 40,000 people in a stadium, watching The Rolling Stones play. It was an excellent, unforgettable, incredible concert, and I’m glad I went. We paid 1200 euros to sit on row thirteen, I think. I could see the Stones without looking at the huge monitors, but even being on row thirteen, there was a huge crowd of people in front of me, obstructing my view. I remember it took awhile to get out of the stadium because of the huge hordes of people. Fortunately, I had ultimately come to hear the music, and hearing it live was really something special.
However, as great as that show was, I also remember sitting underneath some guy’s unwashed exposed armpit for a few hours. This dude had worn a tank top, and the seats were crammed so close together that I was breathing his smoke and his underarm funk the whole time I was watching Mick Jagger strut around on stage. Now, thanks to coronavirus, maybe huge crowds will become a thing of the past. Maybe if I ever manage to go to another show, I won’t be immediately downwind of someone’s halitosis. In restaurants, I won’t be practically sitting at some stranger’s table, as Bill and I were in France back in February, because tables are so close together.
Hell, maybe the virus will prompt the airlines to stop cramming people onto airplanes like sardines! Wouldn’t that be a lovely aftereffect of the pandemic? You can finally fit in your seat and not have some stranger leaning on you for hours while a person in front of your reclines in your lap and a person behind you sticks their knees in your lower back! The thought of that is exciting for me, although it will probably mean flights will get more expensive. But then, maybe that’s a good thing too, because it will mean less air pollution.
I am kind of psyched about how teleworking is becoming more acceptable now. I have enjoyed having Bill at home with me. I know not everyone likes to be around their spouses or children all the time, but I think that togetherness could be a great gift to the children of today, who don’t always get to see their family because of the demands of work. Although travel is a good and necessary thing, and I will always love to see and experience different places, I’m glad Bill hasn’t had to go on any work trips since March. Out of necessity, things are having to be done differently– everything from Zooming business meetings and classes, to even court proceedings being done remotely. That will mean less pollution, less traffic, less gas, and probably fewer car accidents. It will also save time, since people won’t have to travel unnecessarily to another location for meetings that can be done by computer.
The virus has also prompted some pretty amazing creative efforts. For instance, this lady’s funny remake of “I Say a Little Prayer” turned into an anti Trump parody has made a number of my friends laugh with me.
Watching that lady sing a funny song about Trump has made me feel like coming up with one of my own. Maybe I’ll get around to it today, after I do my weekly pointless vacuuming.
Another friend shared this hilarious gif with me. Yes, it’s rude and disrespectful, but it sums up things nicely for those of us who are tired of the Trump style circus shit show.
The virus will expand medical knowledge. Scientists and physicians and all of the other healthcare professionals out there will have to become more knowledgable out of necessity. Yes, it completely sucks having to get that knowledge in the way we are at this point, but if you look at history, it’s always been this way when a new germ develops. I remember the AIDS era, back in the 80s. So many people died horrible deaths. It seemed like the AIDS crisis would never end. But AIDS is no longer the threat it was 35 years ago. It no longer kills people the way it used to, because scientists came up with ways to treat it and prevent it. Policies were changed so that fewer people were exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through blood transfusions. Effective drugs were developed so that the disease could be kept at bay. Now, people with HIV antibodies aren’t necessarily facing a death sentence the way they did in the 1980s. Eventually, the same thing will happen with COVID-19. In fact, it’s already happening. With every passing day, people are learning more about how to prevent and fight this disease.
And finally… I would like to pass along one more silver lining. Last night, as I drank a “Jenny sized margarita” made for me by my loving husband, I came across an obituary for my hometown’s very first COVID-19 casualty. I notice that the article was written by Sherry Hamilton, a reporter I had the pleasure of meeting myself, back in 1997. She interviewed me after I came home from Armenia. I knew her late husband, Grant, because he and his first wife, Kyle, were my family’s neighbors in the early 80s. I used to play with Grant’s and Kyle’s children.
Grant’s second wife, Sherry Hamilton, wrote a very moving article about Alicia Marsh, a woman who, along with her sister, Sondra, were admitted to Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, in Gloucester, Virginia. The sisters had both come down with COVID-19. Just a few hours before they were both going to be released from the hospital, Alicia suffered a pulmonary embolism and died. Her death was very sudden and devastating to her close-knit family, particularly since the sisters’ father, Johnny, was also hospitalized with the infection the day after his daughters were admitted to Walter Reed.
Alicia died on Tuesday, April 7th. However, two days before she passed, Alicia made a video that another sister, Jessica, had discovered on Alicia’s phone. Sherry Hamilton writes:
In the video, Alicia said she could hardly believe she was where she was, and that it was difficult to be apart, but that everyone should cherish the times they had together. She said that God was good and had blessed her many times over.
“Even though I sit here in a hospital bed, on oxygen and weak, I’m not worried ’cause I know that God has done so many wonderful things for me and that I have a relationship with him,” said Alicia. “Either way, I’m heaven-bound, and I thank God for that.”
Jessica said that watching the video had given her family peace in spite of their loss, and that they felt like people should see it, so they shared it on Facebook.
“The most important part is having a relationship with God and trusting him and thanking him for everything,” said Jessica. “We see people passing away every day while we get to get up and drink a cup of coffee or see our spouse or go to work. We should thank God for that every single day.”
Even two days before Alicia’s time on Earth ended, she was inspired to create something that would bless and teach her family, as well as others who take the time to read her story and watch her video. I am not particularly religious myself. I do believe in God, but I don’t necessarily believe in religion. I was very moved by Alicia Marsh’s video, though, because ultimately, what she said doesn’t even have to involve God. People should slow down and think about the many things we’ve taken for granted for so many years. We should stop for a moment and think about how we can live better and smarter. We should realize that cleaner air and smaller crowds are good things. We should learn that money shouldn’t be the only thing that matters all the time. Because money doesn’t matter to the dead. Life should be about much more than just making money.
We will all learn something new from dealing with this virus and the ones that will come after it. Some people will learn very hard lessons, and many people will suffer losses and tragedies. But there will also be survivors, and they will know how to handle the coronavirus better than today’s people do, because of this pandemic. Policies will be changed, and some people– the smart ones, anyway– will be less ignorant. As my Armenian friend Stepan says, “we plant trees in whose shade we may never sit.” Maybe the seeds of knowledge about COVID-19 that are being planted today will grant shade to people of the future. Maybe what is being learned now will be a piece of the puzzle of a bigger problem that needs to be solved later.
Anyway… I’m just trying to look on the bright side. That doesn’t happen very often because I am a pretty pessimistic person by nature. But, as scary and awful a pandemic is, it isn’t lost on me that this crisis could end up teaching us some good things… and prompting people to be smarter, more creative, and happier with what they already have.