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When I Was 69

When I Was 69
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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

How are we mourning half million deaths from COVID-19?

It's all over the news...a new milestone. A stone - a weight around the necks of those who care about others...whether you're related to them or not...whether you knew them or not...whether you cared FOR them or not. And we need to put some effort into a grief process that as a community can't easily be shared in a community.

Photo by Saul Loab

The 500 candles on the steps of the White House, Fe. 22, 2021, lit by President Joe Biden, and his wife, and VP Kamala Harris and her husband. Biden called for a moment of silence for the loss of half a million Americans to the pandemic, as well as 5 days of US flags flown at half mast.

The following quote is from Loss to the Whole Society: US Surpasses 500,000 Deaths from COVID-19 by NPR, Pien Huang author.

The disease has killed at least 100,000 people in the past five weeks and was the leading cause of death in the country in January, ahead of heart disease, cancer and other ailments, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Losing half a million lives to this disease was unimaginable when the first few people died of COVID-19 in the U.S last February. The disease soon began to ravage nursing homes and the five boroughs of New York City, frequently striking those left most vulnerable because of age, poor health, job requirements or crowded living conditions.

Now, around 2,000 people die from the disease every day on average, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, down from a high of over 3,000 a day on average in mid-January.

The pandemic's deadliest day in the U.S. so far has been Jan. 12, when 4,400 people died.

"The massive number and the loss of those people from our society has not been acknowledged," says Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, an epidemiologist and past president of the American Public Health Association. "We cannot think these people are disposable and dispensable and that we can just get along very well without them. It's those kinds of blinders that sap the strength of the whole society."

It's hard to fathom hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S., and some  2 million more around the world, cut short by the pandemic.

"We as a nation have not coped with this. It's almost as if these are individual losses to individual families, but that they are not seen as a loss to the whole society," says Jones.

She notes that the COVID-19 memorial tribute last month, on the eve of President Biden's inauguration, in which lights were placed around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, was the first formal acknowledgement of the pandemic's death toll in the U.S. by the executive branch of the federal government.

For most of the past year the burden of processing the grief has fallen on health care and funeral home workers.

Cheri Bentley, a hospice nurse with Bluegrass Care Navigators in Kentucky, has witnessed nine of the 500,000 deaths. "The hardest part is watching loved ones who want to be with a patient, and patients who want to be with their families — and cannot be [due to COVID-19 restrictions]," she says. Bentley says the nonverbal parts of saying end-of-life goodbyes — holding the hand of a loved one, stroking their face or sitting beside them for hours — are lost.

Her work helping families say goodbye remotely has raised her own risk of COVID-19 exposure. Yet, in these cases, "I do it anyway," she says, describing video calls between patients and their families: "I'm inches from their face, and they're coughing and they can't breathe and they're struggling. And I'm trying to convey what the patient is saying to the family."

The toll of witnessing these deaths has largely fallen on frontline health care workers.

"When you're the person that's putting your own health at risk and your own family's health at risk, and you're the person witnessing those very real and raw situations, this is a great burden that's felt," Bentley says. "And I think that's lost on a lot of our society right now."

Thanks to Finn Coll Buckley for sharing the above on Facebook.

And finally, the prayer which my friend Byron Ballard has been sharing each evening for the dead.

May you stay safe from the vaccine, or recover quickly with few symptoms, and if you've lost anyone in this pandemic, may you find strength from those who are close in empathy if not in physical fact. We are all connected to one another.

And a big thank you to President Joe Biden, who said to those grieving the loss of loved ones:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Dance around the bonfire of the Repugnican Senators


"The Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial Saturday, voting that Trump was not guilty of inciting the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol -- but the verdict amounted to a bipartisan rebuke of the former President with seven Republicans finding him guilty.

"The final vote was 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, short of the 67 guilty votes needed to convict.
"Held exactly one month after the House impeached Trump, the number of Republican senators who voted against Trump ended up higher than even what Trump's legal team had anticipated, marking a stark departure from the first impeachment trial last year when only one Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, found Trump guilty.
"This time, Republicans Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Romney voted to convict Trump. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Burr, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman who led the Senate's Russia investigation, after he voted earlier in the week that the trial was unconstitutional. Both Burr and Toomey are retiring from the Senate at the end of 2022."
My feelings are that those politicians who voted for the verdict of guilty, and who knew he needed repercussions from his should all the thousands who participated in the insurgence on the capitol on Jan. 6, 2021...these are the hopeful people who I will continue to support...the 7 Republicans and the 50 Democrats.
The rest are villains who I imagine being piled into a big box, locking down the lid very well, and setting on fire, so I, and whoever else is so inclined, may dance around the bonfire and sing any old songs we love...especially the patriotic ones.
Not very loving thoughts on Valentine's Day. Hey, remember the Valentine's Day Massacre? Violence can certainly be imagined. Sure my soul is full of love towards all men, and women, as I love my enemies. But these folks have condemned themselves.
So give me a few moments to let loose the anger, the frustration, the knowledge that they have committed themselves into a criminal political position out of their own fears. These scared little worms just didn't know what to believe in if they gave up their untrustworthy crazy blatant lying fool of an ex-president.
However, I try to love my enemies...
Then I remember...

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
 only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate;
 only love can do that. 

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world
 that we must love our enemies - or else? 
The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate,
 wars producing more wars - must be broken,
 or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. 

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
 will have the final word in reality. This is why right,
 temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. 

I have decided to stick with love.
 Hate is too great a burden to bear. 

Love is the only force capable of transforming
 an enemy into friend. 

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.
 He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid 
of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us
 and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this,
 we are less prone to hate our enemies. 

~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, February 1, 2021

New Month - Happy February


Looking out from the Inauguration platform...lots of flags, and armed soldiers, on Jan 20, 2021.

Maybe the next one, in 2024, won't have a pandemic any longer.

Speaking of which, I want to keep a couple of photos from the memorial lights for those 400,000 who have died from the pandemic.

There are just 400 pillars of light, each representing 1000 Americans we have lost in less than a year.

They stand taller than a person, but I'm not sure of the dimensions. Someone wanted them to become permanent installations. I don't know what they are made from either...maybe plastic panels on a frame?

I can't seem to find a photo that I saw (somewhere) that showed a man standing next to them., and he only came up to a bit over the middle of the light.

Today's quote:

Here is the text of Amanda Gorman’s poem, which she recited at the Inauguration, “The Hill We Climb,” in full.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.