Parents who are trying to get their heads wrapped around this global disease should consider past pandemics, how better prepared we are today, and how our perception about life may be altered forever. Featuring a time-lapse from the past to the future.
Imagine yourself being able to jump one year ahead into the future, well past the time you’re dealing with this pandemic. Will the values you consider to be important today, or the goals you aspire to achieve, be relevant a year from now?
The entire planet is facing a pandemic oriented around a disease that has no cure. Fortunately, the death rate is low and those most susceptible are aware of the risks. I.e. the elderly and those with pulmonary conditions. Knowing that alone should bring relief to millions of Americans, however, the tremors of a panic are growing day-to-day. Toilet paper is harder to come by in the New York region. Yesterday morning, I purchased the last Clorox Bleach Cleaners available at a local grocery store. Bleach itself may soon be hard to find.
Considering history in tandem with what may happen in the near future provides one with perspective. Here’s what represents the good news: the Coronavirus is not as deadly as the Black Plague or the Spanish Flu. We’re more advanced today in regards to science and medicine. A year from now, the future will also provide good news to those reading this post: you will likely be alive, in good health, and feeling lucky you’re not six-feet under pushing up daisies.
A year from now we may feel extremely grateful. We may tell our grandkids one day that, “…we survived the pandemic of 2020, thank God!”
When you speak to people or watch recordings of people who have been through life-and-death situations, they espouse a deeper appreciation about life itself. Take a Holocaust survivor, a war refugee who resettled in America, or an immigrant who escaped from a tyrannical regime—they often espouse a deeper appreciation for surviving and enjoying an extended life.
And it’s worth considering how lucky we are to not be facing the dire situations that arose during past pandemics. The simplest way to find peace of mind today is to reflect on the poor souls back in history who had no understanding (or defense) about how to deal with widespread disease. Sadly, it’s rather therapeutic, but allow me to take you on a short trip down memory lane… to put yourself in the shoes of others.
The Black Death (click here to read a summary). Imagine that you are a member of a wealthy Italian family, living in Venice in the year 1347 A.D. Ships ply the water, bringing goods from overseas. Suddenly, the tide turns against humanity. There are reports of people with swollen wounds on their groins and armpits down by the docks. They soon perish after the swellings on their bodies burst open with blood and pus. The priests of the day, those whose station in life is to bring everyone closer to God, begin to die themselves. The illness starts to consume the city and soon thousands are fleeing towards the countryside to escape it. The disease, however, travels with them and even the livestock (cows, sheep, and pigs) falls victim to the plague.
There is zero science to explain what is happening, as science itself represents a mysterious subject during this era. Medicine represents medicinal remedies at best, and at worst, bloodletting. The only reasonable thing to do is to beg for God’s mercy, which appears to be in short supply… everywhere.
Somehow, after three years enduring these conditions… 36 months of incessant death without any reason or obvious cause… the disease dissipates and you survive. One out every three Venetians, including members of your family, is dead.
If you were alive in 1350 and this represented your life experience, how would you perceive life moving forward? Here’s another lovely chapter from history.
The Spanish Flu (here’s a recap of the pandemic): In this scenario, imagine yourself being the wife of a serviceman who volunteered to fight in World War One. Soon, he ships out to France and you receive few if any letters from him. On one occasion, after a devastating battle that killed 50,000 soldiers, you discover he is alive!
In several month’s time, he writes about a flu that has infected his entire unit. It passes quickly but your concerns revolve around something else: the bloody war he is fighting! On November 11th, 1918, the war finally ends. Your husband departs for the long journey home but something’s amiss—a more virulent flu has consumed the countryside.
Thousands begin to die in the inner cities of America and it is spreading across the entire globe. Reports appear that the local morgue in your hometown and the funeral parlor cannot accommodate the number of bodies waiting to be tended to. Your husband writes he is infected and that he’s stationed at a gymnasium two states away, unable to travel. He barely survives, but upon returning home, the two of you learn a neighbor’s wife has passed from the flu. With no way to dispose of her body, your husband and several other men from town have to dig a grave in the deceased woman’s backyard.
These occurrences happened… throughout the country… 101 years ago. More Americans died during the Spanish Flu pandemic than in World War One itself.
By the time it is over, 20 to 50 million people have perished from the earth. There was no medicine, no antibiotics, and no remedy for those stricken with the Spanish Flu.
Think about our great grandparents—those who survived this pandemic. Can you even imagine how their outlook on life changed?
Consider what their opinion would be about the values we hold close to our hearts, and the goals we’ve set for ourselves. What would they say?
I do not think they would be impressed.
We often take life for granted and consume ourselves with trivial matters. We complain about a snowstorm that requires us to shovel or weeds that keep sprouting up in our yards. Our kids’ go into a slight panic when their toy batteries die or the Wi-Fi signal is too weak to watch videos. We sigh when our travel is delayed from red lights or too much traffic. God forbid the cable is out, now what are we going to do!?!
…The garbage didn’t get picked up, the coffee machine died, and the deli sandwich I ordered came with mayo instead of mustard. “Where’s my cell phone, I can’t find it… call it… call it NOW! I have to get to work!” My Amazon App keeps crashing and I need to order a birthday gift for my son’s classmate and I need Prime to get it to me tomorrow…. I said tomorrow, not in two days! Jesus, this freaking App is killing me!
“You know what else kills me? I’ll tell you what kills me…”
Today… I hope the disease that originated in Wuhan doesn’t kill me, or you, or anyone in my family.
A year from now, we may find ourselves appreciating things we once brushed passed during our hectic lives… and we may look back and ask ourselves what all the fuss was about. Why did we get so caught up in little things that never really mattered in the past? Why were we so concerned about affording that luxurious and spacious SUV, and keeping up with the Joneses, when we should be putting more emphasis on appreciating our loved ones?
Maybe we’ll look at nature and simply take it all in… for its simplicity, the reoccurring cycle of life, and it’s visual splendor?
I witnessed this firsthand in the summer of 2017, months before my mother passed away during her battle with leukemia. Over the course of sixteen years, she designed and tended to the landscape of her backyard. It was oriented around Japanese design—the result of a trip she took in the 60s to Japan. That trip forever inspired her when it came to her home and gardens.
She gazed out the window and looked at what she had created, one planting at a time, and began to cry. “I don’t want to leave this. Look at it.” I saw the trees, the Japanese dwarf maple she planted, the curved garden beds, and dozens of different perennials. Then I walked over and hugged her for a long time as we both knew, but never mentioned, that this would soon come to an end.
We just enjoyed that moment… together.
Perhaps we will look back a year from now and we will agree to an unspoken truth. It will remain unsaid but will stem from the Coronavirus pandemic we managed to survive.
And that is… let’s enjoy the time we have together and share the experience by appreciating the things in life that really matter.
If you enjoyed this story, you may enjoy the following:
My Mother’s Mysterious Chalice – A Story About Family Legacies
Preserving Sweet Memories: Your Child’s First Day of Kindergarten
Leave a Reply