With Hands Clasped: Thoughts of the Pandemic
By Harriet Hodgson
As COVID-19 spread across the land, Americans were directed to stay home. This news led to all sorts of questions. What will we do for entertainment? How will we teach the kids? Will we run out of food? As weeks passed, many Americans felt confined, even imprisoned. Not me. A freelancer for 38+ years, I was used to working at home.
My husband and I have been married for 62 years. “I love you more today than yesterday,” I often say. Staying home with him was a blessing. Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver, in one of her poems, uses the phrase “with hands clasped.” I lived her words with hands clasped in memory, in caregiving, in creativeness, in gratefulness, and in hope.
In memory . . .
When World War II started, I was four years old. COVID-19 made me anxious and scared. These feelings caused war memories to become vivid again: food rationing, gas rationing, digging potatoes in our Victory Garden, Mom working in a wartime factory, and air raid blackouts. Odd that a pandemic would cause memories to resurface, yet a world war and world virus are similar. Many experts compared fighting the virus to a war, one we would win.
In caregiving . . .
I have cared for three generations of family members. This is my 23rd year in the caregiving trenches. In 2013 my husband’s aorta dissected and he had three emergency operations. When he woke up, he was paraplegic, unable to use his lower body or legs. The night I drove him to the hospital, I became his caregiver, and believe caregiving is love in action. Retired doctors and nurses rallied to fight COVID-19. I added virus protection to my caregiving To Do list.
In creativeness . . .
I have always been a creative person. While I sheltered at home, I revised two workbooks I wrote for grieving kids, edited a children’s picture book, explored doodle art, baked up a storm, and emailed publishers. So far, I have written thousands of articles and 38 books. Two publishers accepted the children’s books. Because of the pandemic, however, production of the grief books is on hold. The children’s picture book is still in production.
In gratefulness . . .
Americans are interdependent and need each other. COVID-19 showed that truckers, store clerks, housekeepers, home sewers, lab techs and countless others are heroes too. Staying home made me realize, yet again, that little things, such as the first robin of spring, are big things. As usual, I was grateful for my wacky sense of humor. (Yes, I laugh at my own jokes.)
Since I could not be physically close to others, I reached out in different ways. I sent surprise gifts to some, was a guest on blog talk radio, signed up for another show, posted book videos on social media, increased email to family members, gave books to friends and strangers. Though I am a kind person, I tried to be kinder, a lesson many learned from the virus. I also vowed to slow down a bit.
In hope . . .
I have survived cancer surgery and open-heart surgery. Each morning, when I awaken, I ask myself, “How can I make the most of the miracle of my life?” At age 84 I am still discovering pieces of my unknown self. Thanks to experience, I know how to adapt to the changes of life. I also know some changes are easy, and others test the soul.
Poet John O’Donohue, in his book To Bless the Space Between Us, refers to changes as thresholds. Thresholds can make emotions like confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, and hope come alive. It is wise to recognize and acknowledge thresholds, O’Donohue continues, and I have tried to do this.
The pandemic pushed America to a threshold, one that will define our nation. Let us cross this threshold together with kindness, dignity, and mutual respect. Let us cross with hands clasped in love.
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