When my grandma was very ill, the entire family returned and gathered in her home to see her one last time.
“Why does it take a crisis for everyone to come together and remember what matters most?” she said to me when we were alone.
My grandma was a wise woman.
Like you, I have been in a state of panic the last few weeks. I’ve been worried about the health of family and friends, the wellbeing of those I know and don’t know across the world. I am scared for friends who have small businesses that may not survive. I am scared for friends with compromised immune systems. I am scared for our elderly, our homeless, our most vulnerable. I worry about my mother-in-law who can no longer see her husband in assisted living. I’ve been worried about my own wellbeing, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially.
I’ve thought a lot about my grandparents and elders these last few weeks, those who survived depression, war, poverty, disease and managed to come through it all with strength, grace and resilience. I pray we will as well.
Ironically, I practiced self-isolation growing up. I spent summers with my grandparents at a log cabin in the Ozarks. We had few neighbors. We didn’t leave to go anywhere for months. We stocked up on food for the summer. At that old cabin, there was no phone, no TV, no access to the outside world. What did we do? We swam in the creek, we floated in innertubes, we read countless books, we cooked, we baked and – most importantly – we talked. I spent time with the grandma we all returned to see, the one who taught me all I had to do was sit and rock in a glider on a bluff overlooking the Ozarks, read a book, use my imagination, and I didn’t have to go anywhere to be everywhere.
We are at war against a virus, we are at war against our own fear. How do we continue? I wrote in my upcoming novel, The Heirloom Garden, about a little girl who presents an older neighbor – a woman that lost her husband in the war and daughter to polio – with a bouquet of dandelions that have gone to seed. “Close your eyes and make a wish,” the little girl says. As the puffs of white float toward heaven, the little girl asks the older woman, “What did you wish for?” “The only thing that matters,” she says. “Hope.”
That is how we continue. Hope.
The story was inspired by one with my grandma, and I take that wish to heart even more today.
Each day and night, the sun still rises and sets. Every day, I write a book. And every night, I read a book and then say a prayer before bed, a prayer of hope.
In times of crisis, we do – as my grandma taught me – finally remember what matters most: Each other.
Take care of yourself and those you love, and if you need me, for anything – even a virtual hug of love and hope – know that I am here. We all are.