Good-bye 2020

This has been one @#$%^ of a year. SARS-CoV-2 came storming in and stomped on, shattered, crumpled and otherwise destroyed and threw out the window every dream and plan we had for 2020. It trashed weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, trips to the mall, meeting up with buddies at the local watering hole, graduations, school, playtime, and then, to add insult to injury, prevented us from gathering to mourn the loved ones it snatched from us.

It made us stand apart, stop hugging, stop holding hands, fear the very air we breathe. It divided us into tribes: pro-maskers vs. anti-maskers, the virus is real vs. the virus is fake, the stay-at-homers vs. the go-out-and-partyers.

People lost jobs and businesses and homes; people cued for hours for a bag of groceries or a COVID test. Parents working from home had to juggle work with home-schooling their children.

It’s been a year of seemingly unprecedented racial violence, of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, tyrants clinging to power, wars, mass murders, mass kidnappings, famines, etc. etc.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we’ve been pummeled with one disaster after another. Wild fires that threaten to devour the whole world, and hurricanes and tornadoes and plow winds and hail storms that demolish everything in their wake. We’ve been left homeless, bereft, bruised and battered.

But not without hope.

Hope is the one thing that has carried us through this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year. This isn’t an airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky kind of hope. It is hope borne of a million random acts of kindness and generosity by neighbours, and even strangers, who look out for one another. It is hope borne of the knowledge that we have fallen on our face before and, like the words in Frank Sinatra’s song, picked ourselves us, brushed ourselves off and started all over again. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we can survive now because we have survived before.

It is hope borne of the courage of so many people who have continued to serve in the face of this scourge, people who have put their lives on the line for us and, alas, have often lost them. People, such as those who work in hospitals and clinics – nurses, doctors, cleaners, cooks, EMT personnel, maintenance personnel and suppliers. Civic workers who pick up the garbage, drive transit, keep the heat and power and water flowing, clean the streets, patrol the neighbourhoods and fight fires. People who work in grocery stores and pharmacies and department stores and gas stations, and the truck drivers who bring the stock to those stores. Business owners who care enough to make their premises safe for those who venture in.

It is also the hope borne of promised salvation. Two vaccines have been approved, others are coming. This does not mean that SARS-CoV-2 will be immediately or even permanently vanquished. We’ve fought that long-term fight before, too: smallpox was eradicated only after a long, concerted, multi-nation battle; tuberculosis and polio have been beaten back but not banished and we’ve learned to live with them. What the vaccines mean is that we can now breathe more easily, we can hope more strongly.

It is fitting, if entirely coincidental, that vaccines are being approved in December – the darkest time of the year when it seems night has won over day, and darkness over light. Since time immemorial, societies in northern latitudes have gathered during these darkest days to conduct ceremonies to lure the sun back and to ensure that Earth’s wintery death is only temporary. These festivals of lights beat back darkness and death just a little bit and remind us that, yes indeed, light and life will return. Now, the promise of light has come to us in the form of a tiny bottle of serum.

We’ve even invented a new “ceremony of life” surrounding the first recipient of the vaccine. It’s the same everywhere, no matter who the first recipient is or where it occurs. The TV cameras are there to record it, the person is surrounded by nurses and co-workers, the inoculation is given, everyone bursts into applause and cheers, and the recipient gives a little speech. Each time we witness this, we affirm that COVID is being beaten back, even if only just a tiny bit, and that light is returning.

We’re not there yet. Darkness still surrounds us. We’ve a long path ahead but we know the light is returning. As long as we have hope and courage and stamina, as long as we continue to support each other, the light will return.

Hold the faith, dear readers.

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