This past week the pain of the pandemic finally took me down.
No, none of my family members or close friends has contracted COVID. Since the death of one former colleague in early spring, I haven’t lost anyone dear to me to the disease. I remain healthy. But everyone around me seems to be suffering.
They are suffering because they have been around others who have learned they were carrying the coronavirus, and now they don’t know whom they can safely see or whom they may have already infected, pending more testing. They’re suffering because they have family members in extended care facilities and the lockdowns are expanding once again. They’re suffering because they have family members who have recently been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, and they know the road ahead will be further complicated by the demands of growing numbers of COVID patients and overburdened health care workers. They’re suffering because family members have recently died from other causes, but during those illnesses they had limited access to those who were ailing and now they are mourning without the physical tenderness others could offer.
They’re suffering from the prolonged isolation that has finally overcome them.
Throughout this year I’ve made a point to follow the news about the danger of the pandemic and its toll and to read the tributes to those who have lost their lives to this insidious disease. I wanted it to be real for me as I continue to hunker down in the safety of my home. I railed about our collective lack of action combatting the disease. I fretted that more Americans couldn’t do the simplest things to keep everyone safe. More recently, I privately admitted that I wasn’t feeling the fatigue as keenly as others, because I was so comfortable in my own protected space.
But this week it finally overpowered me. I broke down when I read about the untimely death of Fayette County Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. I never met Mr. Caulk. I have, of course, read about his efforts to address the inequities of education in Lexington’s schools. I knew a little about his background. I knew he had survived a serious battle with cancer when he first arrived in Kentucky. Today we only know that he succumbed after a brief illness. But that he should lose his life at 49 after displaying a lifetime of courage and after having done so much good, necessary work just seems unbearable. I send my sincere condolences to his family.
So, it appears I too have been broken. I pride myself on my toughness. I want to be a bulwark for others. All my life I’ve told myself that my early losses made me more empathetic, more sympathetic of the suffering of others. But now I feel there is nothing I can offer to all my friends who are reeling.
All I can do is share these words.