When I was doing my clinical training in a major, Level I trauma center in Boston, I remember acutely a day that I broke down sobbing. I felt like I was simply immersed in death. One of my dearest patients had finally died, and I had a heavy case load.
One of the older, wiser, more experienced chaplains took my hand, and said: “I need you to remember that this is not normal. The rest of the world is not immersed in death. Go outside and be reminded there is life, and there are promises of good things to come.” She got me through that shift, and helped me find my balance again.
I am so acutely aware of how much death we are all steeped in right now. As our national COVID deaths top 240K, I am so acutely aware of how much death we are immersed in, and how much we have normalized this as “just the cost of this pandemic.” Friends, if no one has said it, let me say THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
It did not have to be this way. This level of death, pain, loss, and grief are not the “price we pay.” Good leadership could have helped us care for one another, and saved so, so many lives. Say it over and over again: this is not normal.
We could have had a national Pandemic strategy that kept this from ever fully reaching our shores. There was literally a handbook.
We would have immediately shut down the country, paid people to stay home, and beat this back months and months ago (for far less money than we’ve likely already spent).
We could have prioritized the most vulnerable among us, and collectively worked to care for them.
We could have declared loudly, early, and often that our fierce individualism comes second to interdependence and the good of the whole. We would have been stronger for it in the long run.
The list is long.
Say it over and over again: THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Then find the thing you need to remind you there is still life, and goodness in the world. Once you’ve found that thing, go and fight like hell against the systems that have immersed us in death, and convinced us this is just the price we have to pay. But do not ever let anyone tell you this is normal. It is not, and we must fight back.