As Christmas comes, as Hanukah recedes, as other faiths bring forth their days of joy and days of miracles, I am set to thinking about our dance these days with death and pain and isolation.
Yeah, I know, Merry Christmas to me! But we are living in a time of pandemic, which is spreading exponentially, particularly after events of gathering. Viruses don’t give a hoot about Christmas, concerts, bars or holiday markets because their sole job — not unlike ours — is to survive. They are looking constantly for a comfy home in which to pitch their tent and grow their virus family.
This virus seems to be single-minded and clever — if a non-thinking thing can be clever in that it manages to pick the best place in your body to thrive, be it lung or kidney or even the heart or brain, according to Johns Hopkins. Its preferred pathway is through your respiratory channels.
So, as the days of the celebration of the Christian calendar’s most joyous time come, the natural tendency is to gather and sing and join in a group to give gifts and in general have a good ol’ knees up of dancing and joy. Perfect, says COVID-19, I couldn’t encourage this more. Oh come let me infect you, oh come let me infect you!
Now those of us who have decided that COVID-19 is a lie will ignore all of this and just throw the dice. They may even be lucky and not get it or get it mildly, but there is no guarantee that the person next to them will be so lucky. They may carry the virus right into the bank or bar and walk away, all the while the person they hugged joins the many at the hospital, reaching its capacity to handle the uptick.
Amid all this joy we should be taking time to remember and eulogize those who have died. At Pearl Harbor 2,467 died; at Gettysburg 3,100 died; at the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2,977 died. All of these we mourn and honor. The total number of deaths for World War II is 291, 557. COVID has claimed 311,000.
Let’s think about this: Even in this season, we have lost more brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, grandmothers and fathers than during all of World War II. And yet we pay no attention to these numbers. Not the Congress, not the president, pause to truly honor these losses.
Is that what our faiths teach us, to have such loss and turn our backs so we can hold an opinion or position? Does faith teach us to ignore death, ignore science and choose politics over life? Over the honoring of those who have died at the hands of COVID-19?
If you gather with friends and family this holiday and choose not to be masked, the least you can do — and I do mean it is the least you can do — is to bow your heads and give a thought for a brief moment to all the 311,000 families with an empty chair at their table. Some whole families are gone now.
By the time you read this or sit to dinner with your as-yet-uninfected family, the number will exceed this. Maybe someone you know will be at FirstHealth by then, maybe on a ventilator, maybe in the morgue. At least take a moment for a blessing to the families of the fallen. It is the least you can do while you gather, sing and spread the virus.
My holiday wish is for all of us to remember that viruses don’t care what you think, they care that you are a place to live, a place to spread because that is all they do. The only thing that spreads faster is hubris.
So, my Christmas wish is that we all try a little harder to give the doctors, nurses and hospital staff a meaningful gift by masking and washing our hands. They are either heroes — which everyone seems to agree on — or they are fools for falling for this hoax. You decide, but both things cannot be true at the same time.
Listen, if you know this pandemic is real but are afraid to say so because of your party affiliation, peer pressure or whatever, now is the time to join with the child in the manger who grew to care about others more than himself.
O come let us mirror Him.
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.