“Everything’s Going to Be Alright”
As I take down my tiny Christmas tree, my late husband's oft-repeated words of reassurance echo in my mind. Will we be alright this time?
At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote a piece about masks, how they’ve been used over centuries of human history, and the pain of social distancing.
That was nine months ago. Since then, more than 350,000 people in this country have died as we’ve watched malevolence, incompetence and ignorance magnify the mortal danger presented by this virus, delaying actions which could have minimized casualties. We have seen doctors and nurses struggle valiantly to save lives and comfort the afflicted, some of them losing their own lives in the battle.
Now, at last, there is cause for optimism—scientists have concocted a vaccine, a weapon which we can deploy against the spread of the virus, and we may begin to hope that the nightmare is coming to an end. Perhaps we are at last at the end of the beginning, if not the beginning of the end.
For those who have lost someone to the virus, the vaccine offers little consolation. That chair at the table is still empty, those shoes will always remain unfilled, and all the memories, hopes and dreams in that mind will still be gone forever. We must all mourn these losses with all our hearts, and remember them.
How do we go on? At 83, still living alone in my Arlington home, I ponder this.
I am old now, and I am aware of my mortality in a way I have never been before. My husband died at 92 three years ago. I keep wondering what he would have said about our current situation—the pandemic, the political divisions, the tragedy of so many lives gone.
It’s lonely without him, but I have good family and friends with whom I spend time on the phone or Zoom—and occasionally in my garden, well wrapped in blankets and excited by the actual presence of another person. And there is my writing group, treasured for its diversity and challenge.
But still, he—my friend, my confidante, my media naranja—is gone.
During our 56 years of marriage, we had many wonderful times and some not-so-wonderful ones. There was illness and sadness, but together we comforted one another. His response to so much was, “Everything’s going to be alright, Patsy, everything’s going to be alright.”
And usually it was, eventually. Or, if it wasn’t, we accepted it and went on.
Perhaps that’s what us old people know. Things work out. Or they don’t.
Experience helps, because it teaches us that for everything there is a season. Spring follows winter, dawn follows night. We can fight for what we need, but ultimately we must trust and accept.
As I take down my tiny Christmas tree today and put away the treasured ornaments that mark so many of the events, small and large, of my life, I wonder if this is the last time I will do this task.
If so, I accept that, but I make sure the ornaments are carefully wrapped, just in case. And I think again—if I survive, how do I pick up the threads of life when this ends? Will everything really be alright this time?