Aging Well

Small awakenings to our best selves during the worst of times

It's Easter and a time of new beginnings, a time to metaphorically clean house.

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Dirty windows
Liisa Ogburn

John Prine, one of my all-time favorite songwriters, passed away from coronavirus earlier this week at the age of 73.

The kids have been out of school for four weeks due to the virus. Some days we find ourselves wearing whatever we slept in for the rest of the day. There are certainly days we ask one another, “What day is it again?” There is little to mark one day from the next except the number of COVID-19 deaths globally, then in the United State, then in North Carolina... But those numbers begin to bleed together. As Prine sang in his song Souvenirs,
Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That's why last night and this mornin'
Always look the same to me…

It is Easter, the day in the Christian faith that Christ was resurrected. It is the first Sunday in anyone who is living’s memory when, on Easter, churches around the globe have had to lock their doors instead of open them up in an effort to not contribute to further infections, suffering and deaths.

When my girls were little, I sometimes took them to the sunrise service at one of the two African American churches on Oberlin Road that our home church partnered with for Easter. It can make one's arm hair stand up, going in quietly in the dark and an hour later, with gospel song, welcoming the sun and light. 

Before my husband fell asleep last night, when I mentioned people applauding for the health workers in Italy and Spain, he said, "the nurses, the CNA's, the cafeteria workers, the janitors, the cashiers... they are the heroes and the ones most exposed in this." 

My husband has been having nightmares that cause him to kick the sheets off and talk aloud. I usually can’t make out what he is saying. But last night the words, “It’s coronavirus,” were clear. He scoffed when I told him. He is a hospitalist about to go on for a seven-day shift and likely a fair amount of his admissions will be due to coronavirus. It is anticipated that cases will peak in North Carolina in the coming weeks.

What thoughts do we all keep submerged during the days that populate our dreams at night? That wake us up?

It seems several writers I have recently fallen asleep reading have alluded to something they call “small awakenings.” In these times, one need not be a Christian or a Jew or of any other organized religion, to unexpectedly suddenly “see” what is clear and beautiful and true in front of them, even in the darkest of times. Perhaps it is in the form a handmade mask someone has left on your doorstep? Or a neighbor offering to pick up groceries? Perhaps it's a good night's sleep, when you are caring for a loved one with dementia, or a smile from a stranger you pass when pushing your daughter's stroller.

It is Easter Sunday. Here is the wish that we can each metaphorically clean our dirty windows and bring forth, even for a short period, our best in the worst of times.


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