I don’t know about you, but the year 2020 will be forever engraved in my mind. If I were to capture it in a single picture, it would be of my daughter and me in the kitchen, wearing gloves, using disinfectant wipes to clean the outside packaging of all the items we had picked up from the grocery store before we put them away. That is, until the stores ran out of disinfectant wipes. There is a feeling of darkness in this picture, and fear. We didn’t know so much in those days. We didn’t know exactly where the covid-19 virus might be hiding, or how it might attack us. I had been watching the news endlessly, first the videos of people in hazmat suits spraying the empty streets in Wuhan, then the bodies piling up in Italy. Then came New York, and Cuomo’s daily briefings detailing the disaster covid had become in that city. I remember seeing the navy hospital ship sailing into the harbor and almost getting choked up because it seemed such a majestic representation of help on the way. In retrospect, I know that all was not as it seemed, including the ship and its purpose.
I am not a person who could take covid lightly. I have heard the experiences of many pretty healthy people who were so sick with covid, even had I been one of those people I probably would have tried to hide from it. But I was someone with diabetes, overweight, and I was also immunocompromised because of cancer and cancer treatments, so I was gravely concerned that I would be likely to die if I got it. Honestly, I didn’t think I would. Just as covid was becoming known around the world, I had moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a small town in rural Iowa. In our county in Iowa, they were counting the covid cases in single digits, unlike the Bay Area. Our move had felt so orchestrated from outside ourselves that it had a quality of fate to it. Before we left I thought that soon after I would see a news item which would confirm that it had been right to leave when we did. I had expected an earthquake, naturally, but covid definitely fit the bill. And I felt I had been protected by this move. “God has put me in his pocket,” is the way I put it.
Nevertheless, I was wary, and not just of the disease. What was it that made me want to dust off those Robin Cook medical thrillers, to watch those post apocalyptic movies about what happens when the world has been decimated by a virus? I could not imagine how the world could survive something like this. Never mind, the illness and the havoc it wrecked! How could society withstand a shutdown? How could people live without jobs? How could businesses survive being closed down for months? What would happen when all these shutdowns led to shortages? Well, I had seen the movies, and probably you have too.
The fact is that there are almost 600,000 people in the United States who are no longer here today because of covid. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the story, because those 600,000 people died agonizing deaths, and they died alone. And they left families who not only mourned the loss of their loved ones, but were also left with the extraordinary grief of knowing how they died, and of being unable to say goodbye.
The thing about this retrospective, to me, is the huge contrast with today. It turns out those medical thrillers and post apocalyptic movies didn’t get it right. Society survived. I survived, and you survived. Now we have immunizations, which are pulling us out of the darkness. I got mine as soon as I possibly could, and the sense of freedom I have as a result is beautiful! Not just the sense of freedom, but the actual freedom. I am positively giddy with it! I can hug people outside my immediate family! I can go to church without a mask and sing! I have been able to meet people who are living in this same pocket where God put me, and that has been a huge blessing!
I don’t know what the point of this blog post is, really, but I think so often about 2020, about that darkness. It isn’t just covid. There are so many things within me and around me that have changed in the last year, again in ways that seem to be orchestrated by God. I am a little awestruck actually. I was also diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2020, and at the time of that diagnosis I was filled with the fear that I would not even see this spring. But I am here! Not only am I here now, but I am planning on being here for years to come, because although I don’t know what they are, I believe I have things yet to do in this life.
I hate to keep repeating myself, but I also hate to say things people who have not been reading my blog forever will not understand. But when I was diagnosed with cancer originally, in 2016, my Pastor, Matt Lacey, gave me a scripture for the journey. It was the story of Jesus walking on the water, and calling Peter to come walking on the water to him. That was what Pastor Matt saw for me, the faith to walk on the water through this part of my journey. Whenever I went through a scary procedure, I would call this up, and the most glorious visions sprang out of it. They were always different. In so many I stepped out of the boat and took Jesus’ hand and didn’t just walk, but danced on the Sea of Galilee, which sparkled like a million diamonds in the sun. On other occasions I was just too weary to get out of the boat, and just hung over the side while Jesus hung over the other side of the boat and sat with me in that gray place2. When I was re-diagnosed in 2020, I tried to go back there and couldn’t. Instead, I saw Jesus on the shore, and he walked away from me, and said something about me being able to handle the darkness. I had no idea what that meant, but it deeply concerned me! And walk through the darkness I did in 2020, all the way through to finally learning Michaela’s fate. But it turns out that I was not abandoned in that place. There was always a lifeline. And now I am free of that place, at least for now.
If I am writing this blog for anybody, I guess I am writing it for those who are right now walking in the darkness. I know some of you. I have a friend who recently turned both her facebook profile pic and her cover photo to black. I know others who are suffering. These times come to all of us, but I just want to remind you that they don’t last. There is an exit on the other side. Just keep going. Keep taking one step at a time (even if you are lying in your bed with the covers over your head while you are doing it). For me, I have struggled mightily with my faith all my adult life. Always, always, God has chased me down, has shown his hand in my life and his love for me. Honestly, this time seeing Jesus walk away from me in my very own vision was, umm, unsettling. Had I finally gone too far? So I started chasing him, along the shore, into the trees. And then he caught me again.
If this part of your road is taking you through dark places, don’t lose hope. The light has not died. And you are not alone. Reach out your hand, and you will see.
Much love to you all,