still standing

I do like an early morning thunderstorm. It’s nine o’clock in the morning and it’s so dark I have the kitchen light on while I drink my morning coffee and read the news. The rain is falling with a sort of steady insistence, like it’s telling us we can stay inside and act like nothing is happening, but it is not going to stop. The cat is looking resentfully out the window at the rain, unfazed by the sporadic thunder. It’s a pretty solid thunderstorm in terms of rain and thunder, but it’s skimping on the lightning. Maybe it’s storing it up and will give us a show later.

The news tells me that on Friday the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives issued guidelines to allow federally licensed firearm dealers to provide drive-up or walk-up gun sales during this period of isolation. Why? To reduce the health risks posed by the coronavirus. The BATF has a dead solid lock on graveyard humor.

On Facebook one of my Christian senator is wishing me a happy Easter and assuring me ‘He has risen’. I hope she’s not referring to that dark, malignant force haunting the White House, ghoulishly presiding over the drown-in-the-fluid-that-fills-your-own-lungs pandemic. Speaking of which, the butcher’s bill in the U.S. will exceed 21,000 deaths at some point today.

This morning the Twitterverse is, as usual, like Jabberwocky written by the illegitimate child of Oscar Wilde and Charlie Manson (just go with me on this; I don’t need a lesson in biology). It’s clever and hateful and funny and malicious and witty and snarky and so incredibly stupid and full of fascinating information and confusing as hell. Twitter is probably like a lot of family gatherings.

~ ~ ~

I’ve forgotten what point I’d intended to make when I started writing this morning. I got distracted by this photograph. I saw it on Twitter. If Twitter can be believed — and I want to believe this is true — this is a photograph of an ICU nurse who has worked 65 hours in the last week. I’ve been looking at and thinking about this photo for about an hour.

I don’t know this woman’s name, or where she works, or who shot the photo. I don’t really know anything at all about her. But I recognize her. I recognize that look. I know she’s on the ragged edge of exhaustion, discouraged, worn down by grief and duty. I don’t know who she is, and I know she can’t save us. But I also know she’ll try. And I know that after a few hours of sleep, she’ll be back at it. So will all of her colleagues.

Today I’ll stay inside, dry and warm. I’ll read my book, I’ll cook some food, I’ll do a little housework, I’ll do a bit of writing, I’ll feed and pet the cat, I’ll continue to check in on social media. At some point tonight I’ll watch an episode of Breaking Bad and maybe an episode of some other show. I’ll fill up every hour of the day, but I’ll never be busy and I’ll never be uncomfortable and I’ll never have to make a decision more difficult than what to cook for supper.

But I know I’ll return, over and over, to this photograph. It’s that powerful; it’s that compelling. Right there — everything that can be said about the power of photography is right there. Everything that’s good and noble about humankind, right there. Everything that can be said about sacrifice and dignity and dedication and love and compassion, right there. Everything that is heart-crushing, that is hopeful, that is beautiful, that is desperately sad and deeply caring and incredibly tough and still tender, it’s all right there.

I hope my Christian senator sees this photograph. I’m glad she finds some comfort and strength in her belief that ‘He has risen’. Me, I’m drawing my strength and comfort from knowing that this woman, whoever she is and wherever she is, is still standing.

11 thoughts on “still standing

  1. Beautifully said Greg. Thanks go out to that woman and the many men and women in the front lines. Just trying to stay to myself, so hopefully I will be one less they have to deal with.

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    • It’s SO easy for us to make their jobs a tiny bit less of a burden. Stay home as much as we can, protect ourselves and others when we go out. I felt silly the first time I wore a mask to buy groceries, but then I saw other folks doing it as well, and that made me feel I was doing something helpful.

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    • Catherine, thank you SO much for the mask. It almost makes me wish I had to go shopping today. And even though I don’t believe in god, it pleases me enormously that so many folks find comfort in their beliefs.

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  2. What a poignant and profound tribute to this woman and to all the others who are struggling so valiantly and compassionately to ease another’s pain and fear. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was a medic in the military, so I’ve got some small idea how hard the work is and how exhausting these folks must feel. Their weariness will fade, but the emotional toll it takes is enormous and never quite goes away.

      I have immense respect for these folks.

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  3. It’s Aimee Goold an ICU nurse in the UK, at the end of a shift on her 65 hours / 6 days working week. She posted this on Facebook last week to encourage people to stay at home over the Easter weekend. Whilst I can’t be sure, I’d suggest it is a selfie. In honesty, I had flicked through it, as there are lots of similar posts (compassion fatigue perhaps) but your commentary has encouraged me to look a little closer. Thank you. But more importantly THANK YOU to all the healthcare & other key workers everywhere, that are helping their communities through this pandemic – especially those who have been ill-served by their political masters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you SO much for that information. The honesty of that photo is gripping. It says so much about her as a person and about the dedication and determination of health care workers in general.

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  4. not just the picture, powerful as it is; but your poignant commentary. as I know you will, I will come back to this over and over in the coming days to remind myself of the human tragedy it speaks to and the spirit of the human race that it demonstrates. it gives me hope whenever I loose it, most often when hearing or reading of the remarks and sentiments of our “leader” (I never watch him any more, my stomach just can’t stand it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really DOES give a person hope, doesn’t it. I find it difficult to remain discouraged or cynical for very long, because I know people like this exist. And I think MOST people share something of what keeps this woman going. We’ve got a lot of jerks and fuckwits out there, but I truly believe we outnumber them.

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