Never have we been more reminded of the circle of Life than we are now. And, never more than in the past two years have we been reminded of how short Life can become. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a greater effect on us than anything else in our lifetime. We’ve experienced horrific losses and sociological change as a result of COVID.
Two years later, we’re still feeling its effects.
We’ve been extraordinarily blessed with good economic times and have had a good handle on disease control since the end of World War II. A century ago, we weren’t so lucky. The Spanish Flu of 1918 took roughly 40 million lives worldwide. These staggering numbers came to be so great that doctors describe the Spanish Flu as the “greatest medical holocaust in history.” I’d bet the great plagues of Europe generations earlier took even greater numbers of human lives.
Does anyone know what made the Spanish Flu so deadly—along with other vicious flu strains that have killed so many in the past century? In 1918, doctors were only beginning to understand viruses and what made us sick. In fact, they really didn’t know what was making people so sick in March of 1918. There was so much yet to be known in terms of disease research. The 20th Century brought forth great strides in disease research and the introduction of vaccines.
There have been various flu strains in the century since—some worse than others. I recall the Hong Kong flu strain of 1968, which affected our household. It landed my dad in bed, who traditionally never got sick. In the summer of 1966, I fell ill with the worst flu I’ve ever had with a temperature of 104 . No idea where it came from nor why I had it. I was down for a week with my face in a barf pan. It was a frightening time for a 10 year-old sick as a dog.
In the summer of 2009, with wildfires burning all over Southern California, I was hit with the flu at a Van Nuys car show and went home with a temperature of 103.9—burning up with a high fever and horrible chills. The next morning, I was fine as though I had never been sick. I thought, WTH? A week later, I was drowning in my own fluids. Turns out I had contracted Swine Flu. At times, I thought I was going to die because my lungs were full of fluid and I could not breathe. It took weeks to recover.
The past two years have been a time of horrific losses for families and communities worldwide. At its worst, COVID-19 has taken out entire families. At the least, families have been unable to see their loved ones at the end of their lives. A great many have been maimed with long term health issues from COVID.
A close friend of mine, a retired airline pilot apparently in great health at 75, was one of the first COVID deaths on April 1, 2020. His daughter unknowingly brought COVID home from a cruise ship, which infected the entire family. No one was permitted to see him in his final hours due to the spread risk to everyone. This is surely a story told time and time again in surviving families. So many have been forced to die alone without family and friends at their side.
In the past two years, I’ve personally witnessed the loss of a number of friends to COVID and the inevitable passing from old age. With age has always come poor health and accidents from cognitive issues (falls, car crashes, stove left on, etc.). I’ve also lost a number of friends to COVID. However, most have been lost to age-related issues or what the experts call natural causes. One friend in his eighties lost his balance, fell down a flight of stairs, and was killed from head trauma.
We are endlessly reminded of our advancing age by our own mental and physical health along with the loss of friends and family. What is happening to us has been happening to generations all throughout history. A time to be born and a time to die.
Most important to remember is – a time to live. Never stop living. Despite painful losses throughout life, it is vital for each of us to remember the importance of living. Fear not dying. Embrace the pulse and each breath – and remember to let those you love know how much you love them.
And, remember something else. Grief doesn’t have an expiration date. Take time out to grieve as your heart dictates. Follow your heart. Grief and tears allow you to set the pain free and find a way to keep on living. Take time out to laugh with a friend and remember the good times you’ve had with those who’ve passed. In due course, it will become easier and your heart will become stronger.