Almost two years ago . . . on January 2, 2019 to be exact . . . I posted the blog “Family Matters”. And at the end of said blog, I wrapped up with the observation that “It’s a brand new year, all bright and shiny and full of promise and opportunity.”
If those words had been written at the beginning of 2020 my crystal ball would currently be residing in the trash . . . ‘cause it was obviously broken.
To put it as nicely as possible, 2020 has been a series of contradictions. There have been weddings and births and muted celebrations of Life’s milestones. And there has been loss. So. Much. Loss. And that loss has touched the life of every human being on the planet—a statement that I don’t in the least feel is an exaggeration.
Jobs have been lost. Businesses have closed. Activities we took for granted have ceased, or at the very least, been curtailed significantly. And Death. Death has made his presence and his power known time after time after time, taking thousands of lives to which he might not otherwise have been entitled—because this year he’s had a minion assisting his endeavors. A minion known as COVID-19 who can, quite honestly, be given credit for all of the aforementioned.
You know what I have missed the most over these last few months? It’s not eating in restaurants or going to movies or attending church services or even the mommy-daughter trips Kathryne and I had started taking. It’s kissing my grandchildren. I know. It’s such a little thing, but it was something I did whenever we were together. It might have been a peck on their forehead or a slightly longer one nestled in their hair. But with my Bartlett bunch there hasn’t been much seeing, let alone touching. With our little Malcolm things are slightly better, but we always wear masks to protect him and his parents, especially since, due to our work, we’re more exposed than most people. Even if I had the chance to snuggle my little man, it wouldn’t be the same when there’s three layers of protection between us. Layers that will keep my nose from inhaling that wonderful baby scent. Layers that will keep my lips from feeling his silky hair or his baby-soft skin. Not long ago, as his daddy was about to take him home, Kathryne pulled down her mask to kiss him goodbye . . . and right after she did, he reached over and pulled it back up. Malcolm is 19 months old. For over half his life, this is all he’s known . . .
There are some who will say we’ve been overly cautious, and you may be right. But we’ll never know, will we? We’ll never know what might have been if we had simply gone about Life as though Death and his minion were not waiting in the wings. And frankly, that’s knowledge I’m willing to live without.
But guess what? There’s hope on the horizon! Hope that we can return to some form of normal! Hope that in the coming months we can beat back the scourge of COVID and take back our lives! And when that happens—not if, but when—please remember, there are many whose losses cannot be replaced, only mourned. What brings hope for the rest of us is arriving too late for them. Let that knowledge sit with you and temper any celebrations you might consider.
We have a brand new year that will be here in a matter of hours . . . a brand new year, all bright and shiny and full of promise and opportunity. Use it wisely and treasure every moment of it. If 2020 has taught us anything at all, it is that we have no guarantees where Life is concerned. Let’s make 2021 a testament to that lesson.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.