I think that perhaps we are all still a bit reluctant to celebrate a new year after the events of the past three years. I know that I am a bit hesitant to believe that I can plan without disruptions and losses. So much has happened since we all spent the New Year’s Eve of 2019 so unaware of what the world would soon face. Nothing in my rather long lifetime might have prepared me for the events that ensued, not even my fascination with books talking about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I had listened to warnings from public health experts that we were bound to face another worldwide medical emergency, but I tended to believe that even if it happened it would not affect me. How wrong I was!
As I write this blog I look across the street where I partied at the end of 2019. The theme of the gathering was” life through the decades.” We danced to music from the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties of the twentieth century. As midnight approached we switched to current music while laughing and enjoying our good fortune.
In the new year I remember preparing split pea soup for luck and tossing in a side of black-eyed peas for good measure. I had plans to travel to Scotland in the spring. I had signed up for a continuing education course at Rice University. Life was full and wonderful even in February when I spent an entire day laughing and playing games with my brothers and their wives. We had a ball talking about all of our plans for the coming months, plans that would soon enough fall apart.
A friend invited me and my husband to the Houston Rodeo Cook-off in early March. It was packed with people having a great time, not realizing that in only a week or so life as we had known it would change so drastically. I remember feeling just a tiny bit leery because I had read a small article about a strange disease beginning to show up in different parts of the world. I had asked my husband if we needed to prepare in case we got sick. I thought he would laugh at me but he too had heard about this virus from a man that he follows on YouTube. So, I purchased some extra cans of food and set aside a bit more toilet paper and some cold medications, then went out and had fun as usual.
We all know that it did not take long for the rollercoaster ride to begin, along with the politicization of everything associated with how to respond. Not only did one million people die in the United States and millions more around the world, leaving children without parents and grandparents, wives without husbands, but friends and families began to argue over who was right and who was wrong. Doctors and nurses morphed from heroes to villains in many people’s minds. We lost friends over disagreements about masks and lockdowns. Many became depressed. Some turned to suicide for relief. We all wondered why we were unable to draw together rather than apart. New Year’s Eve 2020 ended with a whimper but still some hope.
The months of 2021 went by and we adapted according to our beliefs. My household became accustomed to avoiding large groups, mostly staying home, a situation that was perhaps somewhat easy for us because we are all introverts. The hard part was watching friends and family members suffer and even die. We went through one day after another hoping to see an end to the sorrow. That came in 2021 when the vaccines became available. Suddenly we saw a dim light at the end of a long tunnel and I cried tears of gratitude when I finally got my first jab. It felt glorious.
Just when we all believed that the worst was behind us the aggressive Delta variant began to attack the world again. Those with updated vaccines mostly did better than the people who had refused to get vaccinated. There were more deaths and more divisions. A huge rift developed that became ever more ugly. Those who were vaccinated got together in small groups wearing masks. Others tempted nature by eschewing all precaution. My husband and I were careful. We had elderly relatives who needed our care. We had to stay healthy and not bring a virus into their homes. We had learned how to enjoy our restricted lives, but it seemed so very long since we had felt free to do whatever we wished to do. Then came another New Year’s Eve without parties or bells or whistles and 2021 came to a close.
The dawn of 2022 brought a bit more optimism than we had felt in a very long time. Nonetheless it also heralded the end of life for many of our most beloved friends and family members. It seemed to be the year of the funeral or the horrific medical diagnosis. Even one of the neighbors who had been at the party of New Year’s Eve 2019 died. The husband of a dear friend who was fully vaccinated caught Covid and did not make it. My mother-in-law succumbed to heart failure at the same time that my father-in-law had emergency surgery and later contracted Covid at the hospital and almost died. One of the dearest and most incredible friends that I have ever had left this world far too quickly in 2022. Somehow all of the hope that I had felt drained from my heart.
I know that I am not alone in my anxieties and lingering feelings of sorrow. It is a worldwide side-effect of the pandemic that has shaken people all over the world. We have dealt with unprecedented loss of life and health for three years and even though our ordeal appears to be over, we are somehow not yet willing to believe that the worst is past us. We are only very cautiously optimistic as 2022 comes to a close. Will 2023 become the year of celebration as we move beyond the horrors that have had an effect on all of us?
We cannot answer that question with assurance, but what we have learned for certain is the value of each person in our lives. We know without doubt the importance of cherishing each moment of happiness that comes our way. We now understand how we must support one another and offer kindness with every opportunity that we get. We have made it for now. Let’s make every second of the new year count.