It has been six weeks since Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued the “stay at home order,” which coincided with my daughter’s diagnosis as a “suspected” case of the coronavirus.
A week into her bout with illness, I caught her “suspected” case. We remained in quarantine for the requisite 14 days. My husband is working from home, but both daughters have been furloughed from their jobs. My job, as a florist assistant and delivery driver, awaits me once we’re given the all clear. I won’t say sheltering in place has been easy, but it hasn’t been that difficult.
Whatever we had — corona or not — we weathered it well, with no lasting effects. And during our quarantine, when we could not leave the house, family, friends, and neighbors let us know they were just a phone call away. In fact, when we got dangerously low on TP, my aunt and uncle drove over and left a pack on our front porch. All of this felt a lot like love.
To be clear, I understand that some people are suffering financially during this crisis. I get it. I understand the disappointment of students missing out on proms and graduations. I get it. What I don’t understand is the people who want to flout all caution; who carry guns to statehouses to demand it is their right to expose themselves to this virus if they so choose. Yes, they might survive the virus, but they might carry it to someone who won’t. This I most certainly do not get.
With all this as a backdrop, my mind keeps going to the stories of two people who were teenagers in the 40s. You probably have heard of both of them: Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel, both Jewish.
Their stories, while horrifying, give me both hope and courage for this current crisis.
Frank, her sister and parents, and four others spent two years in hiding in a secret annex in her father’s business. The Franks were captured and Anne died of typhus in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp just weeks before the Allied liberation. She was 15 and missed more than prom night. And yet, in the diary she kept while in hiding, she wrote: “…in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” This, from a child who knew she was hiding from people who literally wanted to kill her.
Elie Wiesel was 15 when he and his father were seized by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz, and then marched to Buchenwald. Wiesel survived the holocaust and wrote “Night,” a deeply personal and candid recollection of his horror in the camps. One story has stayed with me, and while it haunts me, it gives me hope and courage. During the winter march, the prisoners dropped and died from the cold. Arriving at the next camp, the men were crowded into a single barrack, “where the dead were piled on top of the living.” It was then Wiesel heard the violin. It was Juliek, a boy who played in the Buna Orchestra in Warsaw. Wiesel wrote: “Never before had I heard such a beautiful sound. In such silence. …it was as if Juliek’s soul had become his bow. He was playing his life…his unfulfilled hopes. His charred past. His unfulfilled future. He played that which he would never play again.” Wiesel fell asleep to that sound. When he woke, Juliek was facing him, dead, with his trampled violin next to him.
If a young boy, in the midst of the most terrifying chapter of his life, and our history, had the courage to create, then I can find the courage to face anything.
I will close by sharing this poem, written by retired U.S. teacher Kitty O’Meara on March 16, 2020.
And the people stayed HOME.
And read books, and listened, and rested,
And exercised, and made art, and played games,
and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced,
some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant,
dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
he earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images.
and created new ways to live and heal the earthy fully,
as they had been HEALED.
And, you know, it feels a lot like love to me.