how we (get to) remember

Twitter has often been an unhealthy place for me.

That’s changed recently, and it’s changed because:
I now mostly check list filled with doctors and public health experts
who sometimes despair at the odds they’re up against,
but keep fighting, with data and love, anyway.

Now, when I check Twitter, I tend to stick to these lists,
which means I leave not with a depleted heart,
but a fuller one:

These people LIVE IN MY WORLD!

They inspire me, and I am
so glad to know (about) them.

If you’ve read more than two posts here, you know that Nassim Nicholas Taleb is my favorite author. His early words about the threat of COVID shifted me from thinking, “What’s the big deal?” to, “Oh, boy, we’ve just entered Extremistan, haven’t we?”

(HIs words shaped my actions in ways that have protected my family, and I’m so. grateful. to have stumbled across them at my local public library in 2017.)

One day, some weeks back, Taleb retweeted someone thanking him and zeynep tufekci for cutting through the noise and bringing him signal on COVID. This meant, of course, that I had to also see what tufekci was writing

(though I didn’t buy her book, a fact I’ll soon rectify).

One of the things I love best about “public health Twitter” is its relatively abundant empathy;
the acknowledgment that we get different outcomes by making different choices;
the longing for a better world for everyone—
yes, everyone. Period.

Last week, I knew I wanted to start bringing that here.

So when I checked Twitter this morning,
and found something zeynep had posted
moved my heart to share
for how it shines light in
the world,

I knew I’d share

Yesterday, zeynep wrote about her anguish at the oft-lost “last chance for closure” that COVID is bringing:
people dying alone, away from their loved ones, lest their loved ones also become fatally ill.

I tweeted a link to her post with my own words:

My mom was with my grandfather-by-choice when he died.

My sisters were with our mom when she died.

Reading this, I am both grateful my loved ones didn’t die alone & anguished that so many dying people are now being denied this final, precious gift of presence.

I replied to my own tweet with a follow-up:

My mom was distraught she was asleep when GG died. I reassured her that she’d fulfilled his desire to not die alone. Asleep or awake, I said, she was with him. That was what mattered.

That so many people are now dying needlessly is a horror; that they do so alone, unfathomable

GG died just hours after I made it home from SoCal, where I’d recently moved.

My mom was devastated that she was asleep when GG died. I told her

(thank God), “Mom, he didn’t say he wanted you awake
and singing while playing a harp with one hand
and brushing his hair with the other;
he said he didn’t want to die alone.
You made that possible.
You granted his wish.”

(She didn’t believe it,
but I did,
and do—
even more strongly, now.)

so many people
are being made to die in physical isolation.

It didn’t have to be this way:
different policy choices,
different outcomes.

And so:
Understanding better by the day
that shaming improves nothing
while empathy can improve everything,

I wanted to share something
that moved my heart so greatly …

to remind that, in the time of COVID,
washing hands often,
wearing a mask,
keeping that distance (especially indoors!)–
these impossibly small things, for the wonders they can work!–
can make the difference between someone else living …
or dying in physical isolation.

Our small, loving choices,
can make differences not only in
who lives, but how some get to live–
if they get to remember
the parting breaths of
their now-departed
loved ones.

Sometimes, the mask itself can even take you back to moments with those sci-fi loving people now lost (though, if I’m honest, young Shatner would be even nearer the mark)

2 thoughts on “how we (get to) remember

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