Grief and Community in the Time of Corona

Am I going to laugh or am I going to cry?  I know what to do.  Sit back.  Breathe.  Be still.  I purse my lips together.  You know how you do that when you are thinking.  Trying to discern what is happening with your emotions.  Do you give into them or do you take a deep breath and forge on?

When you read this and look at the date, 30th March 2020, you will be reminded of the era find ourselves.  The days of the Coronavirus Pandemic.  COVID-19.  The common ground of vocabulary.  Stay at home.  Quarantine.  Work from home.  We all know the symptoms.  We have even had some of them on a daily basis.  Oh good.  I can smell now.  I don’t think I have it.  Do I feel hot?  Do you think I have a fever?  Some of our responses are even comical.  Are you short of breath?  Of course I am, but is it a panic attack or is it the Corona?  By the way,  I gave in.  I cried.

Social media is full of memes that make us laugh at ourselves and society as we face this together.  Are we really in this together?  The answer is, yes we are, whether we like it or not.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this virus.  People across the board are getting sick and some are even dying.  Of course, we hear the narrative on different survivors or those who have succumbed to this virus.  We feel somewhat comforted that maybe that person who died was not as healthy as we are or as healthy as we think we are.  That’s what we don’t genuinely know.  We actually don’t know how it will affect each of us physically.  So, maybe in that regard we aren’t in this together.  But, I will tell you how we are in this together.  We are all scared in our own way.  Be it bravado or acceptance.  There is an unknown for all of us.  For each of us.  How are we all going to make it?

I ventured out to the grocery yesterday for a few items.  I sanitized. I wore protective gloves. I took an extra pair for after I finished my shopping.  I kept my distance.  It was Sunday about 6:45 p.m., usually a busy time at our local Kroger.  At first, I felt some relief that there were not many people around so I could zoom through and get home.  1. Because I never enjoy grocery shopping when I have to do it.  2. I did not want to be around a lot of people.

Then, the contradiction came through tears right there in the dairy aisle of the Kroger.  Grief.  I felt grief.  There were no people at all.  A meeting place in this small town where for as long as I’ve been shopping, I always see at least 3 or 4 people I know.  “Hi there! How are you? How are the children?  How is your family?  Are the children home from school?  What you cooking tonight?”  Nothing.  There was none of that and it grieved me.  The very task that I would have normally rushed so I could get home on a Sunday night, now took a sorrowful turn.  I went in with an attitude of get in and get out so we all stay safe.  We were all guarded.  There was no sense of community.  There was a sense of respectfully distancing six feet apart as well as let’s stay the hell away from each other.  I paid for my groceries.  Discarded my gloves in the trash. I sanitized again.  The few people, store employees and customers, were mindful of what we could not see.

As I approached my car I heard, “Well, hello!  It is nice to see you again!”  And there he was stopping and standing six feet away from me, a new friend I met in the grocery last week when we kept trying to do a dance six feet apart on several of the same aisles.  A young man about my children’s age named Marvin who is a flight attendant with American Airlines.  We talked for a moment about how things have changed since last week when we first met in a much more crowded Kroger.  We talked of how concerning and distressing each day brings new information and deaths.  We talked about how we are both healthy and will probably be ok, but that this will most likely be our last trip inside the store instead we both agreed the curbside service is a wise choice until the curve is flattened.  We laughed that every time we cough we automatically think we are sick.  The last thing we said to each other was that we were meant to be friends and maybe when this is all over we will see each other on a flight to somewhere fun or perhaps we will just see each other in the produce aisle and say, “There is my friend. Part of my community.  Here we all are again.  Packed in this Kroger together buying food for a gathering of friends or for a party.  For a wedding shower.  For an office luncheon.” For all of those things we miss. Those things we are now grieving.  Our community in the time of Corona.