The Tale of The Virus That Changed The World
The true narrative of this epic year began to unfold before our very eyes, initially like a joke, till we all realized we are in this drama for a long haul. Our only hope is that it ends as a comedy. However, that kind of sounds like wishful thinking in the light of what has transpired in these past horrific weeks. The world as we know it, our lives, will never be the same again.
As the year started out, words like “furlough”, “pandemic”, “N95”, “virus”, “surge”, “quarantine”, “ventilator” and even statements like “flattening the curve”, “stay at home”, “those fighting on the front lines”, “stimulus cheques” were not part of our day-to-day vocabulary as it has sadly become our reality. The abrupt change in routine is not part of the typical modus operandi.
What is this micro-organism that has thrown the world into chaos? What is this contagion that has put nations on their knees and has snatched away our brightest in their prime?
What is this plague that has torn families apart - some transiently, some permanently? This virus that has left an indelible marks on most families one way or the other belong to a family itself - the family Coronaviridae. The coronavirus name is derived from the latin word “corona” meaning “crown”. Why have you chosen to crown our lives with so much uncertainty, so much pain? This novel virus called SAR-CoV-2(severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 causes coronavirus disease(COVID-19).
When all these started initially, I was asked to give short talk in my church on how people can protect themselves. I tagged my talk "Covid 19 Awareness". I remember vividly researching how many cases there were in Pennsylvania at the time. That was March 7th, 2020. At that time, there were only 4 reported cases in Pennsylvania which I quoted in my presentation. Today, according to the Pennsylvania department of health, there are 40,049. That is astronomical. It is a mind-blowing geometric progression.
I have been too stunned to write in the past few weeks. Each time I pick my virtual pen, I drop it again out of a mixture of horror, shock and sheer difficulty in grasping the reality of what daily unfolds in recent times. It feels like a horror movie. For one, I never liked horror movies and obviously never will. Every night, I watch David Muir, my favorite newscaster report the hard-breaking yet unbelievable news. Each night, my little ones say a pray that God would take the virus away and that He would make those sick feel better. The furrowed concerns on the face of a three year old with clasped hands as she says her bedtime prayers, heads bowed deeply perturbed by how quickly the world is changing around her, hence her thoughtful prayers. She wants to run free-spirited in the parks again, she wants to build sand castles by the beach again. She misses her friends and wants to go back to school. She was heart-broken when the trip to Disney world was cancelled. I understand her pain. I get it. Wouldn't we all do anything to have "normal" back.
Back in my country of origin, doctors are seen as demigods. When health is concerned, what the doctor says is final. Here, some doctors have been saddled with the herculean task of deciding who has a chance at living or not; playing musical chairs with who gets the ventilator or not. The role of demigods have been entrusted without their permission, without their informed consent. It is a new terrain for many. Too much uncertainty.
As a result of the “lock-down”, a week of which coincided with my paid time off which meant I basically had no real time off as I picked up a multi-faceted, yet joyful job in which I am the class teacher, day-care coordinator, janitor, kitchen coordinator, gym instructor, referee, as I have had to settle fights between under fives. What is that compared to what we face as the “front-liners”? Therefore I cannot complain but basically suck it up and do life.
Each time I felt chills, I took my own temperature and anxiously wait for two agonizing minutes. Never realized two minutes could be that long. I constantly remember the conversation I had with my dear friend and colleague who is based in England who told me about some patients whose only symptom was nausea; another, only sore throat. So each time I felt some dryness in my throat, I think about “it”. Perhaps I feel slightly nauseous, I quizzed to myself. These atypical presentations would give you some level of concern.
Each time I got back home, I exerted an initial inertia about hugging my kids. Actually, the initial instant hugs and kisses is almost non-existent and perhaps extinct, as mommy has to go through the ritual of decontaminating herself from whatever is left of what she brought from the hospital. She has to wash her hands, take off her clothes and have a quick shower. Being smart and really sensitive kids, they have come to accept the fact that mommy would not hug them right away but loves them loads. They became okay with it. No, it's not okay. It is almost like an imaginary, invisible wall that transiently divides us. The painful new reality of our times.
I appreciate the frantic calls and text messages from long lost friends who felt compelled to check up on a friend “at the fore-front”. I shudder each time I hear that phrase and each time I say a silent prayer in my heart for all my colleagues and all the people at the anterior portion of probably one of the greatest battles of our lives.
Yet another extra rhetorical question for the umpteenth time is ‘what would become of the world post Covid-19 era? This is because of a truth this too shall pass.
We must find the courage to pick up from the ruins of this war and indeed build an edifice of hope yet again. As the novel coronavirus continues to take its toll on populations of the earth, let us hold on to hope. It’s all we have left as we patiently wait for the darkness to lift and give way to light.
Till the similitude of normalcy returns, wash your hands, cover your sneezes, wear a face covering if you must go out, ensure social distancing, stay at home and pray hard.
“Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.”
– John Piper