In just a year, millions of people worldwide died. These people are not just a statistic. They were living breathing people with souls. They laughed and cried and loved. Whether they were young or old, their lives were cut short. Now, there are children who will grow up without parents and parents who mourn their children. So many lives were lost and they were each precious.
I was one of the lucky ones. I did not know anyone who died of the virus. I locked myself in my house. For months, the only person I saw was my mother. We did not go to the grocery store, and did not even visit our family. It was the first time in years that I went over a week without seeing my family. For the first time in my life, my time was completely unoccupied. The school year was nearing its end. I was not caring for my grandparents and teaching chess for hours each week. There was only one thing I had to do: write.
At first, that was all I had to do. I wanted to write a novel. From March to July, I wrote for sixteen hours a day. Word after word and page after page, my book began to take form. Instead of watching the world fall apart, I wrote. When people texted, I did not respond. I was too busy writing. My characters came to life. In a time where no one could stand within six feet of you, I became closely acquainted with the people living in my imagination. I wrote endlessly. While my mother watched the rising body count on the news and attended virtual meetings, my fingers danced over a keyboard.
It was only when I finished that I realized that it was easier to write a novel than to face the state of the world. Once my novel was finished and published, I was left to discover that reality was just as horrendous as it was when I left. Nothing had improved. Four months had passed and the state of the world was no better. In July, I turned on the news to hear Dr. Sanjay Gupta – with an exhausted look in his eyes – announce that the virus was surging. Nothing had improved; in fact, things had become much worse.
For months, I had been able to avoid the horrors of the world. Then, I had to face it. Things were growing worse by the day. As more and more people were infected, I had to deal with my own personal turmoil. My grandfather was admitted to the hospital. He did not have COVID-19, but the hospital quickly put him on dialysis. At seventy-nine, he and my grandmother had never spent more than a day apart. Suddenly, he was left alone in a hospital where no one knew or cared for him. I had not seen either of my grandparents since the start of the pandemic, but now that my grandmother was alone I visited every weekend.
My grandfather was bounced from hospital to rehabilitation center to hospital. It was a Thursday night – a week before Thanksgiving – when we got a call from the hospital. The nurse who was caring for him called to make special arrangements for us to see him.
We got there just in time.
My family was lucky in a way. We got to say goodbye. So many people lost family members this year with no chance for closure. So much time was lost for us all. Nothing can be done to regain it. There were so many unforeseeable losses. Things have gotten better, but they are not better. Vaccine distribution has begun, but it is not yet enough to give us security. It is not enough to prevent another death. It is not enough to prevent another person from dying alone. It is not enough for normalcy, and it will never be enough to repay those who lost loved ones. There is so much that has been lost that we will never be able to regain.
How can we go forward after suffering such losses? We are left to pick up the pieces after a year. We must dust ourselves off and find a way to recover. As we reenter the maze that is life, we carry new weights on our shoulder. These weights cannot let these weights become parts of us. We cannot let the suffering meld into a part of our being. We need to search for new meaning, new purpose. Walk aimfully through this maze. When the darkness blinds you, find a flashlight. If you don’t have the energy to search for one, ask a friend. They will shine a light for you. We must find our way through the world as it is. Our lives have changed forever, and we cannot expect to return to our definition of normalcy. As we forge the path ahead, we must remain open to whatever the future holds. Things will become better so long as we maintain hope. So long as we stand strong and do not let our burdens overpower us, a bright future will make itself apparent.