“Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the light road was wholly lost and gone.
Then I looked up, and saw the morning rays
Mantle its shoulder from the planet bright
Which guides men’s feet aright on all their ways;”
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is here wreaking havoc across the continents and paralysing the world.
Here in Montreal, the mayor declared a state of emergency that has been in effect since the 28th of March.
On the 14th of March, on a Saturday morning when things were still normal, I went out for my usual grocery shopping with my daughter. It was early in the morning and cold, very cold. Usually in the mornings the supermarket that I go to is almost empty. But not on that day; I was surprised to find so many cars in the parking lot that early. On the escalator on my way there I had this strange feeling in my stomach.
Inside, it was so crowded that the lines of people at all the cashiers reached well into the aisles. I had never seen so many people in this supermarket before, not even during the most crowded hours of the evening. Looking around I had a moment of déjà vu, a feeling of having been in this situation before.
Anxious, I pushed my way through the queues as I headed towards the refrigerated section. To my surprise, all the fridges and almost every shelf in the store actually, were totally empty. No meat, no poultry, no milk, no eggs, no frozen fruits or vegetables, no canned foods, no rice, no pasta, almost nothing was left. The only item available from my list was coffee and that’s because I had switched to decaf…
I stood there shocked, in front of one long, empty aisle, trying to process what was going on without panicking. Suddenly I remembered a similar situation from way back in Beirut during the civil war. On a cold February morning some thirty plus years ago, I had walked to the nearest supermarket to do my grocery shopping when I found myself facing empty shelves and people panic buying everything. I remember rushing straight back home and calling my husband. It took only a few hours for the bombing to start between the militias, and we had to spend the worst days of our lives in the basement of the building, hiding from the incoming bombs.
Most things are forgotten over time. Caught up in the ordinary events and struggles of daily life, I had forgotten about the war, about those days. And on this Saturday morning, here in a different city, in a different country, on a different continent even, I stood in front of one of the empty aisles, feeling anxiety and panic slowly creep in. I felt helpless, with no idea what to do or where to go next. And this time it wasn’t bombs I was frightened of and hiding from, but a nasty killer virus called the CORONAVIRUS.
Disappointed and stressed, we returned home. A few hours later, the Quebec province’s premier announced the closure of schools and universities and urged the people of Quebec to work from home and stay home.
Ever since that day things have been changing so fast for us all. I am worried and even frightened sometimes. And in the words of Elie Wiesel:
“I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”
Hope given to us by other human beings. By our leaders, our government and specially our Quebec Premier Mr. Francois Legault and his team of experts, Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda and Health Minister Danielle McCann. They are always bringing us daily updates of the latest statistics in their briefings and providing us with guidelines to follow to stay safe and keep the situation under control. They have become a source of comfort and hope in making us aware of the situation and helping us to understand the truth about this monster virus.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie
I am grateful for them, but mostly I am grateful for all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, researchers, and all those people who are out there away from their families and their loved ones. They are risking their lives and working hard to provide us with all the necessities so that we, the rest of us, can stay home safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to them all.
There will be people who will not follow the guidelines and who will put their lives and the lives of others in danger. It’s those people that we should be most wary of.
The fight against this awful virus is global. None of us knows what will happen next. Yet we go along and follow the guidelines given to us, and we stay home. Because we trust that, like everything else in this life, these days will pass. Because we believe in our professionals and their expertise. Because we have faith.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
“Faith is not being sure. It is not being sure, but betting with your last cent. Faith is not making religious sounding noises in the daytime. It is asking your innermost-self questions at night- and then getting up and going to work.” Mary Jean Irion
You are in my thoughts and prayers! Be safe!