There’s a gift in planning for coronavirus epidemic

Finding a gift in the coronavirus epidemic

There’s a potential gift in planning and preparations for the coronavirus epidemic that goes beyond the CDC’s recommendations.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II reports to Senate Subcommittee on Department’s preparations for coronavirus.

As a cancer survivor, I know the gift of life. I also know that while the CDC’s coronavirus advice may be a good start, health and healing takes more; much more that builds on Steve Jobs’ wisdom some value even more than their iPhones.

Wash your hands. 

Often.

If you’re sick, stay home.

That’s the best advice the New York Times shared Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to prepare for the rapidly escalating coronavirus epidemic.

Despite more than 20 guidance documents on coronavirus, along with warnings for older and at-risk travelers to avoid China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran, there’s not a lot of guidance from CDC about a threat that’s rocked stock markets and become a focus of hospitals, schools, offices, and households across America.

Two unexpected losses

I read the NYT’s report hours after learning of two unexpected deaths closer to home.

Justin Flippen, 41, was the mayor of nearby Wilton Manors and a dedicated political activist, widely known for his leadership on LGBTQ issues. I’d spent time with Justin recently and he seemed as healthy and vibrant as any active adult in the prime of life and career. Just this month, he’d announced his re-election campaign

Mayor Flippen reportedly died of a heart attack while hurrying to a City Commission meeting, apparently just minutes after updating his Facebook page.

Moments after hearing of Justin’s death, I learned a classmate from JEB Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia had died.

Until a move to Texas a few years back, my friend had mostly stayed close to northern Virginia over the 41 years since our 1979 graduation. He’d reached out not long ago about our shared commitment to serving veterans. We had plans to connect again. There was no sign that he would die with so much life left to be lived.

Life makes no promises

One of the most meaningful experiences of my life is something my mother taught me as as a teenager long before Steve Jobs famous graduation speech. With every loss, I’m reminded of this guided meditation on death and loss and the hope others can also benefit.

As background, in PAIRS classes I’ve frequently taught, the meditation includes laying down, arms cross over chest, eyes closed, as a loved one (typically a spouse; sometimes an adult child or significant other) kneels beside. The instruction is for that person to imagine their loved one has died as they consider and then speak aloud the answers to these sentences:

Complete these sentences

  • What I will miss about you …
  • The good times I will remember …
  • What I wish I had told you …
  • The regrets I have …
  • The plans I had for us …
  • The puzzles I am left with …
  • What I forgive you for …
  • What I ask you to forgive me for …
  • Anything else I need to say or that I need you to know or to understand in order to be able to say goodbye, including any expressions of affection.

The gift of the exercise is that participants are very much alive, able to speak and hear meaningful, often healing, transformative words too often left unsaid. Beyond PAIRS classes, instructors have shared remarkable stories about leading the exercise for families preparing for military deployment, adjusting to hospice, and as part of palliative care programs.

After washing (frequently), along with making sure to stay home if sick, and avoiding risky travel, I can think of few greater gifts through the coronavirus preparations than confiding answers to these sentences now, while we’re very much present in flesh and blood, committed to embracing the greatest gift of all.

Guided PAIRS Couples Meditation on Death and Loss. Shared with permission.