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What carried you thru 2020?

One day during the first week of March, 2020, I stood beside my friend at her kitchen sink while we talked.  A tornado had struck Putnam County and many people were grieving the loss of loved ones and homes.  The spread and seriousness of the corona virus had become real.  My friend added her family news of the past two days.  Her dentist had discovered that she needed major dental work.  A close family member was scheduled for a diagnostic medical procedure the next day, and her husband, and others in management positions at his workplace, had been told to work long hours on assembly lines until a strike was settled with employees who normally did those jobs.

            With exasperation, my friend said, “Okay, 2020! What else you got?”  My friend and I hugged and assured each other that somehow all would work out.  Somehow.

            During the past ten months, I have often thought back to that day.  Our physical health, our endurance, our emotions, our faith, even our sense of humor have all been tested.  Last week, I read a question: what carried you through 2020?  My quick one-word answer was HOPE.

            Hope is defined as believing that something good may happen and feelings of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.  What gave me hope?  Quiet morning devotion time, including listing blessings.  Meeting with Sunday School class members using Zoom.  Knowing that health care workers gave their best to care for patients. Reports of vaccines to prevent COVID. FaceTime visits with Grands who live far away.  Playing card and board games with Grands who live across town. Text messages to and from friends and family. Jokes – anything that made me laugh.  

            When my normal routines of life, i.e., grocery shopping and club meetings and face-to-face visits with friends, came to a halt I began walking for exercise more often and it occurred to me that the big picture life remains the same.  Daily sunrises and sunsets. Changing seasons.  White blossoms burst open on dogwood tree branches in the spring, leaves in the summer, red berries in the fall, and now the branches are bare.  Mother Nature gives hope.

            There was hope and celebration when my young cousin and his wife welcomed their baby daughter into their family.  When friends married.  When a few family members came together.  When the COVID vaccinations began last week. 

            Some take-aways of 2020 give hope.  A young woman who lost her mother to COVID learned that she’s much stronger than she thought she was or could ever be.  Nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and all health care workers are heroes.  Teachers gained more respect as they taught using unprecedented methods.  I’ve become more patient, waiting for deliveries, waiting for quarantines to pass, waiting for vaccines to be available, just waiting.             As 2021 opens its first week, I ask, “Okay, 2021.  What have you got?”  Whatever comes, even amid chaos and pain, there is hope.

Happy Heart Tugs Needed

In early 2020, I wrote on my calendar that today’s topic would be Heart Tugs. I’ve written other columns about happy times when heartstrings tighten. Times to imprint in my head and heart to relive and cherish.   

            During 2020, I haven’t followed through on my intention of writing quarterly Heart Tugs.  Other topics took precedence this summer and fall.  And now, I wrestle with sharing moments that paint pictures of happiness and well-being when so many people struggle from all that 2020 has thrown at us. 

            While it’s good to celebrate the joyful moments, I can’t put sadness and sorrow aside. All emotions kindle Heart Tugs:  some happy, some comforting, some painful.

            Many celebrated Christmas while still grieving the death of someone they love.  Many lost their homes in the March tornado. Many can’t hug parents and grandparents who are in retirement homes or hospitals.  Many families didn’t celebrate Christmas in traditional ways.

            In June, as Husband’s mother’s casket and vault were lowered into her grave, her family stood close by.  Three of her great-grandchildren, all younger than 6 and wearing masks, stood within inches of the grave and watched as shovelfuls of dirt were thrown. At age 92, Grandmother lived a long life with little illness. Her greatest treasures were her twelve great-grands who knew exactly where she kept candy for them.

            Thankfully, technology has connected friends and families.  Six college girlfriends and I didn’t make our planned annual trip, but we visit often using Zoom.  A friend and her siblings and their children and grandchildren reminisced and laughed together even though all were in their own homes and miles apart. 

            Using Facetime, Husband and I watched our Grands, who live an airplane ride away, open Christmas gifts we had shipped to them.  They wrapped new blankets around their shoulders and the two boys, ages 7 and 9, plopped onto the floor and looked at their new books.  Our five-year-old Grand said repeatedly, “I want to tell you something.”  She described every something in detail.

            During this pandemic, one of the few places our local Grands can go is to Husband’s and my house.  So last week, our 15-year-old Grand came with his four younger siblings to decorate sugar cookies.  He slathered colored icing and poured sprinkles with fake enthusiasm.  When Husband stood beside him and spread green icing on a baked Christmas tree, our Grand’s attitude changed. 

            Two hours later, these five Grands boxed up their decorated cookies to go home, and I declared this the best cookie decorating ever.  My six-foot teenage Grand said, “Yeah, Gran, that was really fun.”  A minute later, he asked, “Gran, are you crying?”

             On cold winter days while I walk outside for exercise, I’ll be warm wearing the scarf my 13-year-old Grand knitted for my Christmas present.  My nine-year-old Grand reached her arms high, hugged me tightly, and whispered, “I love you so much, Gran.” 

            Heart Tugs. I’m catching all the happy ones I can – to balance the sad ones.