I’m glad I ran that red light to get her to the emergency room. She could barely breathe. By the time she arrived, I learned much later, my wife of 50 years had probably sustained irreparable damage to her mind. Martha’s oxygen had been too low for hours. Still, the UW Medical Center staff worked for three weeks to give her a chance. My children and I made the decision together to implement her directives. Looking back over these past seven months, I am touched by the remarkable kindness of friends and strangers, starting with the doctors and nurses at the COVID ICU.
We were served at the ICU by a team of experts from all nations, the American reality and certainly the new normal in American medicine. (They had a harder time with my Eastern European name than I did with theirs.)
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about my privilege and how little I know about the diversity, complexity and deep needs of my community. I volunteer as a CASA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children who have been taken from their parents. That gets me out of my university bubble. Some of the people I meet are like my grandparents, neither of whom spoke English, and my parents, immigrants trying to make their way in this nation that does not provide much of a safety net. I run a charity that funds the emergency needs of CASA kids.
I think about how to use my resources to give back. I enrolled in an online degree in psychology to improve my skills with those I serve. As one of my friends, a nurse and a widow, said to me: Your mantra should be resiliency, not misery.
At times I feel unraveled. I do remember how my wife and I, in junior high school, took a Constitution class required by the state of California. What keeps coming to mind is a passage we memorized by someone far more articulate than I, President Abraham Lincoln:
“That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Resiliency. We have a lot of work to do to keep that resolution.