CHICAGO (AP) — We meet for a memorial service by video conference because that’s how it must be done these days. It feels strange, but there also is comfort as I scan the faces of the many colleagues who’ve come to celebrate the life of an editor and friend who succumbed to the coronavirus. Among other things, his brother tells us about a magazine Nick created when they were kids. He called it “Ha Ha.”
I imagine Nick’s wry smile. Sometimes, amid unspeakable sorrow, there are slivers of joy.
I have clung to those moments, however fleeting, as this pandemic continues to test us. A friend, a former war correspondent who’s seen more horror than I could imagine, tells me that’s how it should be in times of crisis. Don’t focus only on the losses, she advises, or you’ll go crazy.
Obsessing about the story is a hazard of our trade. Even though I’ve tried to stop reading news a few hours before bedtime, I’m often not sleeping well. I worry about the families of the sick and dead, about those who’ve lost jobs — about the world into which one member of my own extended family recently arrived, with another soon expected.
As a parent, I yank myself from that rabbit hole often.
I look for respite in the connection and community we’re managing to create — at home and often from a distance — and even when the technology that makes some of it possible is wonky or draining.
I listen to my spouse, a teacher, taking Chicago school students on a virtual field trip to a national park in Alaska.
“Wow, look at that!”
“What’s down there?”
I stop what I’m doing and absorb this little victory. These middle-schoolers, not always an easy crowd, are genuinely giddy to be doing this, some of them on Chromebooks provided by their school so everyone can attend.
Not long after, we get the news that Illinois schools will not have in-person classes for the rest of this school year.
Our own eighth-grader tears up and retreats to her room. When she and her sister abruptly left school several weeks ago, she didn’t realize it would be her last day in the classroom with many of the kids she’s known since preschool.
Somehow, there will be an eighth-grade graduation or a party. Or something. “But it won’t be the same,” she laments. It’s hard to argue with that.
An hour later, she is in the kitchen making crepes. Since she was tiny, she has soothed herself by cooking, as many of us are doing now.
We awaken to spring snow — something that I, a northern Michigan girl, enjoy more than most. But even I take more pleasure in the sunny day that follows.
As my family posse bikes together, I think about those who live in each home we pass. White ribbons are tied around a row of maple, linden and ash trees as a show of support for frontline medical workers.
Who else has no choice but to work outside the home? Who is sick? Who’s running out of money? Who’s fallen into the darkness, and who has stayed there?
It’s difficult not to feel guilty about being, at least so far, among the lucky. But I know Nick would tell me to count my blessings and keep moving.
“Virus Diary,” an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus saga through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow Martha Irvine, an AP national writer and visual journalist, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/irvineap