One day you will receive this letter, probably when you are much older and possibly wondering about the grandmother you were named after. In my hopes that you will find this, I want to tell you first that you brought me immeasurable joy. With your sweet nature and loving attitude toward everyone, you made being your grandmother a pleasure.
But I’d also like to tell you about a very memorable time in my life. You might find my next words hard to believe or even imagine, but I can promise you that every bit of it is true, and that even during the hardest times of our lives, mankind found a way to turn towards the light of kindness.
It was the beginning of the year 2020 and you were only an innocent six years old when seemingly out of nowhere, a mysterious and terrible virus began to sweep the world. At first I was not alarmed because it was in China, so very far from our home in Georgia of the United States. I don’t know if you remember, but Papa and I used to live in China and I loved its people. So I went through deep bouts of sadness as we watched the news and the numbers of infected and fatalities rise into alarming statistics.
However, China was five thousand miles away and I was in my safe cocoon that I believed was impenetrable. But soon my mirage of safety was shattered when the virus jumped borders, landing in Italy and other countries, as well as eventually in the United States. Though they were warned, many people barely paid attention and didn’t heed the warnings, until it was too late and the enemy was in more places than we could count.
In a matter of weeks, the virus was categorized as a pandemic that had no cure, and more than eighty million Americans were ordered to stay at home to try to stop the rapid spread of the virus. Even Hawaii, where your aunt lived, put a two-week quarantine into place for any visiting tourists, and a 30-day stay-at-home order for residents. Across the news we watched as state and city curfews were enacted, and in some places even enforced by the National Guard.
Quarantines and stay-at-home orders led to businesses closing. Many families struggled from being out of work and were unable to pay their bills. Restaurants, movie theaters and gyms shut their doors. Casinos were also affected and the famous lights of Vegas and other high stakes areas slowly dimmed out until they were dark. Brides-to-be were devastated when their long planned weddings were canceled. Funerals changed too, many not held or when they could, continued with only a few mourners, everyone in fear of contracting the invisible enemy.
Animal shelters suffered as people erroneously believed their pets could carry the virus to them, leading to more abandoned dogs and cats than ever.
Churches held on the longest, as they were the most important place for many to find the reassurance and comfort that was beginning to fade away like a wisp in the wind, but soon they too were forced to close, slamming their doors on the last confidences of many.
Visitors were banned from nursing homes, an attempt to protect our most vulnerable who then suffered through long days of loneliness and confusion, wondering where their loved ones were and if they were safe. Hospitalized patients for other life-saving surgeries were denied family members to be at their side, and had to face their procedures and recoveries alone.
All across the nation, schools and universities closed down and educators worked diligently to get as many students online as they could. Mothers and fathers struggled to learn how to teach their children at home while attempting to maintain some sense of normalcy in an upside down world.
The President of the United States and his staff fought to calm the masses, even as we, the American people, watched in horror as the virus become an unmanageable tragedy in China, Italy, and then our own backyard. Our government embraced the task of maintaining the difficult balance of public health while trying to minimize the economic impact and personal hardship to all.
A wave of panic began to form everywhere around us, causing many to run out and buy up all the supplies of household essentials, hand sanitizer, and masks that the medical world badly needed to be able to tend to the sick. Entire meat counters in grocery stores were wiped out and prices to buy supplies online sky-rocketed as some tried to profit greatly from the crisis.
Loss of income led to depression and desperation, which in turn led to panic and another crisis, this one being the stock market that began plunging. People watched helplessly as their investments and retirement accounts took enormous losses, and wondered how they would survive when it finally stopped spiraling.
Rumors spread that martial law would be enacted and those with less to live on would begin a tour of pillage and plunder, taking everything in their paths and using violence if needed.
Sadly, many families fearfully bought their first guns (or added to their collection) and stocked up on ammunition, until there was no more to be found, their fear overriding their sensibilities and long held trust of others in their communities.
The virus continued to rage across cities and states, leaving heartache in its path. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff struggled to do their jobs without the protection of masks, gowns, and sometimes even gloves. They worked courageously, though sometimes fearfully, to fulfill their commitment and oath to the health of others.
As the days passed, major events like concerts, festivals, and marathons were canceled. Some sports were played in arenas without audiences. Auto racing events were canceled or delayed indefinitely, and even the World Olympics were postponed for an entire year.
However, during this time something else began to happen. The good stood up and said the bad wouldn’t win. They would not allow fear and distrust to control their lives.
Families decided to find the silver lining in their quarantines and stay-at-home orders. While the world was forced to slow down, they discovered the once lost gift of time and togetherness. Taking it in stride, they binge-watched family shows and some indulged their guilty pleasure of messy reality television series. Others returned to the familiar and hilarious comfort of sitcoms like The Office, Friends, or the heartwarming hometown series of Gilmore Girls.
When they weren’t outside taking in the fresh air, walking, or planting gardens, people took to spending more time on their hobbies and gifts. Some shared their singing with others, leaning out of apartment building windows, encouraging group songs. Others posted encouraging concerts online, bringing a smile to strangers.
Neighborhood committees and youth groups stepped up to help those in need around them, performing chores and tasks that some were too afraid, sick, or elderly to do. People stood outside windows of nursing homes and assisted living centers, with signs and affirmations of love for the family members, reminding them they are not forgotten.
Artists and introverts took the extra time to paint, write, and immerse their battered spirits in the things that brought them peace—those things that had fallen behind in their too-busy lives that always felt as though were on fast forward.
In many households, families reverted some evenings back to the good old-fashioned Game Night, rekindling their love for board games like Monopoly, Uno, and card games they once held dear. Bookworms united in online groups and compared recommendations and their glee at tackling their once seemingly insurmountable to-be-read piles.
Moms and dads gathered together in the kitchen and allowed their children to be a part of creating their meals, finding inspiration together as they rationed their supplies and got over their cravings for favorite things. They learned to do more with less and became mindful of what they bought and what they consumed.
People took time for self-care and to further their education, some taking up yoga to calm their nerves and others enrolling in online classes to build their resume and occupy their minds. Women took the opportunity to focus on skin-care and give their faces a much-needed break from the constant burden of facing the world with their armor of make-up. They realized that beauty wasn’t just skin deep and learned to embrace the beauty within and love the naked face they saw in the mirror.
Some of the most worried found a way to combat their fears by being selfless and joined forces to sew masks together and send thousands of them to lacking medical arenas as a last-ditch effort to protect those so greatly needed to get us through the crisis.
Animal shelters were rescued when animal-lovers stepped up to foster and adopt many more pets than usual as they tried to level the numbers once again.
Many who had questioned their faith or lack thereof decided to put it first again. The world was thankful for technology as Sunday services and mass were streamed online and parishioners attended in their pajamas. They and others picked up the phone and called elderly neighbors or relatives to ask how they were doing. Others used video calling to see the faces of those they missed or worried about in their isolation.
Privately and publicly, our medical teams were given standing ovations and being prayed for all over the world, giving them the push of encouragement and strength to continue on in the fight for life over fatality in the trenches of sorrow.
As parents took on the role of education in their children’s lives, a new respect and gratitude toward teachers and the difficulty of their vocations emerged.
Many restaurants switched to a take-out and curbside mode of operation, feeding the people as they innovated ways to keep paying their employees.
Brides overcame their disappointments at canceled weddings and said their vows in simple and small gatherings, sometimes with only the groom and a witness as they realized all that mattered was solidifying their matrimonial bond.
The government stepped in and lent a hand to the suffering finances of individuals and businesses, passing unprecedented bills of protection to save the economy and livelihoods of the people.
Companies learned the value of a generous sick leave time policy and employees learned to use it and not hold it. People decided to take the risk of passable infection disease seriously and took better care at public and private hygiene.
People came to know who was deemed essential workers and the role they played in supporting the world during a crisis, leading to a new attitude of respect to the white collar army of manufacturing employees, transport workers, emergency services teams, truckers, and farmers.
Widows and single people heard from family and friends they hadn’t heard from in years. People made an effort to let others know they were in it together, though sometimes alone.
Beer and alcohol distributors stopped focusing on their usual production and instead began making hand sanitizer to replenish hospitals and clinics. Other facilities stopped their normal productions to one of making protective masks. Soon our surrounding countries stopped hoarding and began to share, shipping the products to other, needier countries.
When all was said and done and the virus was pushed back to a less lethal level, the world had transformed. Careers and money had taken first place in priorities of too many and had tarnished the reason we were created to begin with. This invisible and lethal enemy stomped its way into our lives and made people change. Of course they did! It was inevitable because there were hundreds of thousands of deaths to mourn, and livelihoods to be altered. Priorities shifted and hope became the most common word in the vocabulary, as that was the only thing many had to hold on to. Hundreds of thousands of people realized that this was not a battle to save ourselves, but a war to protect our children, and their children. We learned to be selfless.
Many of those who survived considered the crisis was a test of sorts, albeit a deadly one, and the lesson was in looking back to see how they treated one another. People realized in the fast pace of life in 2020, we’d forgotten the sense of family and togetherness. Giving to others had dwindled to a shameful level and the long held rule of respecting our elderly was diminishing, too. We realized that the ability to change the world was up to us, and it was in our hands all along.
And this is the lesson I would like you to carry with you, Tiana Kay. In your life, you will face hardships and tragedies, and possibly uncertain times. But when that happens, remember that eventually the dust will settle and you will need to look back and face who you were, and who you will become. My legacy to you is to follow your heart and the path of kindness, in all that you do. For that, sweet girl, is one of the reasons the world made it through, while we were alone, but together.
Your smitten Nana,