2020, supposedly, has been a year to leave behind—its memory dreaded and admonished by all.
Unfortunately, in the United States, nearly 400,000 people have died a truly horrible death. What merit could possibly be lauded from the suffering of so many?
My mother died of cancer in early 2000. I tended to her bedside, increasingly horrified by the effects that a particularly aggressive form of ovarian cancer could reduce a healthy, beautiful woman to her deathbed.
I understand death. I was solely present at the tender age of 13 for the death of my grandfather from complications of diabetes. These experiences were profoundly formative to me. I mourn the loss of life and its impact on families grappling with unfathomable grief. There are no words. There are never, ever, any words for the unfortunate loss of life. We grieve their loss and uphold their memory.
That said, this year brought us gifts. We began the year with optimism of a new decade. We have ended it by scurrying past one another anxiously, wearing masks, and hoping not to catch the “big scary disease.”
Economic catastrophe, represented in a devastating loss of jobs to those in the service, leisure, and special event industries, has emphasized a truth we all have all come to grips with: this virus will not leave society untouched. It has come to grasp us, touch us, and challenge us. As a whole, our country—our mighty country—has faltered tremendously against this threat. And why? We, as an American society, are stymied.
There have been blessings from the pandemic. There was no Black Friday tramplings, a slowing down of American social “busyness” and all the trappings that accompany it, and although urban violence has not abated (unfortunately), mass shootings have paused this year.
For many families tightening their belts, the lack of social interaction has led to a cessation of unnecessary spending. This has been the first holiday season I can actually say I have not been stressed. I love my friends, but focusing on my own family has been unbelievably freeing and unburdening. Wearing masks has contributed to our family not suffering any extraneous colds or viruses.
There has been an unspeakable bond forged within my family unit—a certain trust that cannot be undone—from having huddled together against a great threat that, for once, has galvanized this divided republic: the threat of death against a super virus.
No one champions the loss of life or the loss of economic prosperity that many Americans are experiencing. Yet, this “year of pause” is goading us toward a higher understanding: the elements of life that are most significant can stand up to the largest threats we, as a society, can confront.
This pandemic time has forced us to focus on those under our own roofs and on the values we hold most dear. As the presidential election drew closer, Americans considered the character of the man who might lead them out of this pandemic and into a new dawn and selected Joe Biden. His administration is a beacon of hope in the sea of hopelessness we have thus far experienced.
I wish you and your family well. As a society, and as a world, we are suffering, but as Queen Elizabeth said recently in her Christmas address, “We are not alone.” Indeed, for once, we can say we are all truly sheltering under the same societal umbrella together, begging 2020 to give us some answers as to why we have all suffered for so many months. There is no answer—only an exhortation to start 2021 anew, bolstered by hope of a vaccine and technological advances to come.
As we rush out the door in the latter parts of 2021, breathless from the freedom that living a pandemic-free life once again grants us, let us not forget 2020, the year of pause.
This was the year we finally learned the elemental facets of our own existence. We became a society forged in adversity. We gained character and strength. We embraced the truth that is now ultimately self-evident: our republic becomes free only from a unified society, rising up, protecting one another, defending its values, and bounding enthusiastically toward a healthier, safer, more prosperous future.