One year ago, as I counted down the days, hours, minutes and then seconds until it was time to turn the calendar to 2021, what I remember most was saying to myself, again and again, “this, too, shall pass.”
It was something my mother had often said during times of trouble, sadness and uncertainty. And her faith in God, her belief in herself and determination to see the best in humanity had served her well in her 91 years of life.
Somehow, she and my father, and those from generations before them, had endured the unimaginable and been fortunate — no, blessed — to see the rainbow illuminate the sky after the storms of life had finally come to an end. And they had witnessed and overcome much, from scarlet fever, polio and the Great Depression, to two World Wars, the Ku Klux Klan, lynching after lynching in the segregated South and carefully hidden prejudice, bigotry and racial injustice in the so-called liberated North.
But this COVID-19 pandemic, this was something different — wasn’t it? And we were not prepared for this strange visage of the Grim Reaper.
Who would be next to fall ill from among my friends and family? How many more would lose their lives to this pandemic and be remembered in the form of a “virtual funeral?”
Who could we trust to tell us the truth? After all, hadn’t the outgoing president, Donald Trump, first insisted that the election had been “stolen” from him — leading his supporters to such a state of fury and outrage that they feel emboldened enough to storm the U.S. Capitol just six days into 2021?
As for the pandemic, it was Mr. Trump who told us we had nothing to fear, pointing his finger and the blame at China while refusing to follow the urgings of the medical community as infection and death rates continued to climb to unprecedented heights.
And this was just the beginning of what lie ahead for Americans in 2021.
Schools shuttered their doors, attempting to continue education virtually – a move that would cause many children, particularly those of color, to fall further behind in their studies.
Many families, seniors and those who lived alone like me, faced the possibility of being evicted from their rental properties, or having their lights and heat cut off because of the inability to pay their bills.
Others, after years of gainful employment, saw their jobs disappear as the businesses for whom they worked were forced to downsize — some even close their doors.
Meanwhile, many proud, longtime homeowners wondered how they would be able to pay their mortgages so they would not lose their homes.
The world seemed to turn upside down for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Traditions, including family picnics and annual reunions, nights on the town at the theater or movies for lovers, high school proms and college graduations, and holiday gatherings, were all put on hold — some delayed, others canceled altogether — while we all hoped that a vaccine would be soon be discovered for COVID-19.
But the greatest challenge to our collective future — the hurdle which America must still somehow overcome — is how to mend the great divide — the rift that has grown between fellow Americans over the past year.
Black Lives Matter advocates now face backlash from a surging number of white supremacist groups.
Those who support vaccines have found themselves battling anti-vaccine contingencies.
Advocates of universal voting rights, mostly Democrats, are engaged in political warfare with those who want to make it more difficult to vote, mostly Republicans, because of unsubstantiated claims that the voting pool has been tainted with illegal voters.
And after decades of abortions being legal and a women’s right in the U.S., even that “privilege” appears to be approaching the chopping block.
As for me, I just want to see my children and my grandsons. I just want to open my door and see my older sister standing there with her arms open wide and plenty of home-cooked treats in her hands for her little brother. I want to feel the joy of singing in church without masks and rules of separation interrupting our ability to freely worship and give one another the sign of peace without fear.
It’s been a rough year. It’s been a lonely year, too. But I’m still here.
And as Momma often said, “this, too shall pass.” And Momma always told me the truth.
Happy New Year. Let’s make it one that we remember … for all the right reasons.