I know a lot about death. I have spent more than 25 years working in the end of life field. I belong to a group of helping professionals known as ‘last responders.’ (Hospice Personnel, Coroners, Medical Examiners, Funeral Directors, etc.)

When people ask me how I can work in such a depressing field, my answer has always been the same. Death is natural… it comes to all of us, and like any other life event, it can be managed and ‘done well.’ In my career and in my life, this truth has given me comfort beyond measure….not just comfort during the hours that I have sat bedside with the dying, but comfort in my soul knowing that death for those I love and someday for myself can be a peaceful transition. Comfort oriented medical interventions, advanced planning, and palliative sedation can assist the dying to move peacefully from this world to the next. It has been my deep trust in this process that has allowed me to be a committed and secure professional in the end of life field for nearly 30 years.

In the last two weeks, that security and deep knowing I have always held, has been torn away as I have listened to colleagues from around the world share stories of human suffering that has shaken me to my core. Stories about people who are dying- gasping for air without medical equipment to fill their lungs with oxygen, dying with their eyes wide and pleading without medications to blunt their awareness, dying alone and afraid without family there to hold them and whisper a soft goodbye into their ear.

This is not the death I know.

For the first time in my life I am scared- terrified …of death. I am scared for my loved ones, for my children, for my neighbors, for myself.

How is it that some are still out eating pizza and drinking beer, convinced that this is fake news and is ‘no worse than the flu?’

How is it that so many will take the time to find just the right toilet paper meme to put on their Facebook page, but ignore the post from a woman in Italy begging people to take this seriously because she too, thought it was just another flu, and has now just buried both of her parents?

How is it that there are still well educated, intelligent adults wringing their hands and wining because they are going to miss their spring break trip to Miami?

And how in God’s name are there so many parents complaining that they don’t know whatever they will do if they have to spend weeks at home with their children when it isn’t even that warm outside yet???

Excuse the all caps here but…. WAKE UP.

Open your eyes. Take a nice big gulp of air into your lungs and let reality come with it. Whatever you believe COVID-19 to be (hoax, fake news, just another flu, etc.) whatever IT is, IT is here, and IT is not going to stop when it gets to your neighbor’s house. IT may get to their house first, but IT will be coming to your house after.

Don’t run out the door to hoard food. Take five minutes to learn about flattening the curve and extending the timeline of this illness… but learn quickly because there is no time left to ponder. Embrace this awesome power that we each possess, to do our small part to slow down this horrible illness by practicing temporary isolation. THIS IS SUCH A SIMPLE THING.

Humanity can move in unison against this illness, like children lined up heaving in a tug of war. If we center ourselves, dig in, and move together, we will change the trajectory of what is happening. Death may still happen for a small percentage who contract it, but if we can flatten the curve, death will arrive without suffering as its companion. This should make all the difference in the world to us… because when one of us suffers, we all suffer… if you do not yet believe this, you soon will.

Imagine, if we, as singular creatures, began acting in unison on behalf of one another right now, TODAY… Not because we were locked up in our homes by leadership that has failed us, but instead because we were choosing to take care of one another … What if we could change the trajectory of the COVID-19 ALL BY OURSELVES… Human being to human being… me, you, and a couple hundred million of our closest friends? What if individual human beings acting together, could turn this bus around? Would that not be a rebirth? A new world? A moment for those in positions of power to step back and remember, who and what this is really about?

Allow yourself to touch the truth that most of us will get this virus and do fine, but do not stop at that truth and rest. Instead, force yourself to pivot away toward the other truth that is standing next to it…the truth that when this illness hits thousands of people all at once- there will be no refuge from the suffering, for any of us. ‘Their’ suffering will become our suffering, and my suffering will become yours… There will be no refuge for anyone.

PLEASE. Get quiet and remember, there is only one of us here.

If you are sick, stay home. If you feel well, either go home and stay there, or make yourself useful in the world. Do not carry on as if it is life as usual, for it is not. If you can go to work, Go…but when your work day is done, make use of your good fortune and serve others. Offer to pick up groceries for an isolated neighbor, check on an elder who may be frightened and alone…place flowers on a grave…for regardless of our good intentions at this point, the hour is late, and there will be many who do not make it through. Teach by example and lead with kindness. Right action at the individual level will create healing throughout every system that we live within including the medical and economic systems. Just do the next right thing… one thing at a time, and this will eventually return us to a place of balance.

Be who you came here to be, and God willing, in 40 or 50 years, you will be telling your grandchildren who YOU were during the Pandemic of 2020.

Remember, we all become stories in the end… what will your story be?

Will you be the one who went home and stayed there for as long as you needed to, so that others would not become ill?

Will you be the one who re-stocked the grocery store shelves each night so that shoppers standing six feet apart could line up at the door each morning?

Will you be the nurse who was able to comfort the dying and usher in a peaceful transition for them because your fellow humans created the space for that to happen?

What will your story be?

There is only one of us here… and today, we still have a chance #virusoflight #thisiswhyyouarehere #flattenthecurve #takecareofeachother #westillhaveachance