Adversity introduces us to ourselves.”
I come from a large Hispanic family. We are close, enmeshed really. Our group texts read like you’re watching a Mexican Novela filled with gasps, lots of “lol”ing and an occasional…ok, a lot of curse words. As sisters we have free reign to reign in each other’s kids. The nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews all blend together as though we are all simply one gigantic and eclectic herd of elephants with one matriarch and one patriarch.
We all have our then COVID stories, don’t we? The disease that launched itself and blew up like an atomic bomb forcing us all to snap to attention with uniforms required in the shape of masks to cover our smiles. Yes, Covid, we hear you speaking. Suddenly, we were in lines at the grocery store facing food shortages, toilet paper envy and buying cleaning products by the droves.
The most startling was the fear, fear of contracting a disease we knew very little about. A disease that seemed to cut lines through communities worse than a F5 twister in Texas. A disease that does not have discriminating taste, rather it possesses a ferocious appetite to flex it’s strength and make even the largest metropolis cripple under the weight of it’s force.
Then it got personal. First, my sister and I contracted it. In all honesty, it felt like a bad sinus infection. I was still able to run and workout, I didn’t experience the known “loss of sense of smell or taste” and for that I’m completely grateful. Suddenly, Covid ran rampant through our entire family including my parents who are nearly 90 years old.
Watching the news unpack the daily reports felt like we were experiencing a real life apocalyptic movie. New York became a ghost town of skyscraper shells. The financial district, a symbol of an untouchable and great country, stood now a barren wasteland. And Central Park, once a place of community, runners and musicians was now a make-shift morgue with the body count going up daily.
The world we had all created and learned to live in was now a wicked remake of the Wizard of Oz except in reverse. There was no Emerald City or yellow brick road. We didn’t have a good witch to guide us on our journey. We were all on a tram moving backwards through memories of a life where we used to go grab coffee with a friend at a patio cafe. We used to hug upon seeing each other. We entertained ourselves with fine dining, sporting events and parties with friends…then Covid.
Our worlds were rocked is an understatement. Who do we trust? What is the best course of attack? How do we fight an onslaught not only on our soil but the world with a force we can’t see, contain or control?
My mother began with labored breathing and weakness, we monitored her oxygen levels at home. When the numbers plummeted and wouldn’t rebound, we knew it was time to admit her to the hospital. My father raised by John Wayne, Charles Bronson and a dash of Steve McQueen was next. The barrel chested Superman of my childhood was no match for this unknown enemy who left him frail, weak and hooked up to so many machines providing for bodily functions we often take for granted.
Perhaps the most painful part of our “new normal”, so aptly coined early on, was the great population of deaths occurring in silence. There could be no gathering of loved ones around someone’s bed. No final moments of holding a hand that raised you. There could be no exchange of love, words or remembrance. The chorus of machines one by one were muted. Lives were being ravaged, families ripped apart and answers fell miserably short.
Through this wicked and overgrown forest of pain, we witnessed the weariness of a new kind of warrior — our healthcare workers. Rather than gladiator garb these heroes/heroines donned the equivalent of hazmat suits, masks that were over worn but in short supply yet hearts that led them back in more times than they should’ve gone back in to grapple for lives they had never met.
Suddenly their job description went from the already long list of duties to now include bedside angel to ill fated sojourner and extended family to those who couldn’t be with them. Observing these amazing and unrelenting souls, my question was, “Who is there for them?”
Yes, we have all been forced to give up some sense of rhythm. We have all endured or been one removed from loss. But, our healthcare workers have sustained the biggest blow to their psyche, their emotional well being and their peace.
The restroom, their car, the shower…this is where they let go…albeit for a few seconds if they’re lucky…a few minutes. These have become their sanctuaries of solitude. The safe place to simply be, to let go and to grieve.
Their brilliant and inquisitive minds — drawn to problem solve, provide differential diagnosis & complete a course of action — has had to adjust to rapidly changing conditions, situations and more questions than they have answers for. It’s a lonely place. Fear of vulnerability to share your experiences, your fear, your concerns is a very real thing and self care as you care for others becomes quickly non-existent.
These warriors in scrubs need to remembered and served too. Rather than simply responding to code blues we must respond to them with programs like “Code You” and other means of support.
We are experiencing collective trauma. Attempting to go back to “living”, but kidding ourselves as that definition rapidly changes. We stand together in the middle of our grief.
To the children, the spouses, the families who have lost their loved ones I offer you the greatest sympathies and assure you, you are not alone.
It is said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of a world as well. In this ever changing whirlwind, we have been reminded and have visibly seen that humanity is generous and kind, resourceful and brave. We are witnesses to the character in healthcare workers past exhaustion; serving beyond their job descriptions; in the thousands of them across our globe who have asked to work and serve in any way possible.
Our unity is a kinship of grief. Our suffering is our commonality. And the community will stand as we hold these days and our experiences as we transform the pain from hurting to harmony.
This article was originally posted in July on Medium. Check out other Nora Sophia Articles .