By Diana Creel Elarde
There is so much space and distance in 40 years apart, and yet I knew as soon as I heard the word ‘hospice’ that there was only one place in the world I needed to be. Throwing my suitcase in the back of the small SUV, I quickly made the departure from the Omaha airport toward Lincoln, hoping to make it in time. Time! It takes on an entirely different connotation when needing to connect for the last time. When I finally arrive, we hug as we assess each other. Then we truly hug. I hold my cousin’s weakened body as memories of childhood sleepovers, birthday celebrations, and family holidays come flooding through. What tied us then, ties us now. We sit, we share, holding hands as we catch up.
The next day one of my sisters joins us and we laugh—oh, how we laugh–for two days, until the tears of departure send us back to the lives we had built. Love transcends whispers in my ears. Beyond all, love never fails to connect.
Then it is on to Detroit, where more challenges await. A week-long visit with my 99-year-old mother is cut short by precautions imposed by her senior-living facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical connections are forbidden, forcing me to stand outside a window to say my goodbye.
Her image is fuzzy through the thin curtains, but her tears and distress are clear. As she mouths the words I love you, I feel the emotion. All the walls in the world can’t stop that message from reaching my heart.
As concern about the pandemic increases, it becomes clear, after traveling through airport after airport, on planes laden with coughing passengers: I have now become a possible liability to those others I had hoped to connect with on this trip. An early departure homeward is my only choice, leaving those who are most precious to me in the hands of a higher spirit.
After yet another crowded plane flight during the worsening pandemic, I finally arrive to the safety of home. Safety… perhaps! As a precaution, my husband and I stand awkwardly apart, not knowing yet if I am a risk to him.
A strange and hollow feeling invades my being as our usually intimate connection is now limited to sweet smiles across the room. Time and distance may be the only friend we have right now to make sure our days can come together again. I try to stand in the future of better days, keeping fears of what if away from my consciousness.
What does it mean to connect with others? Psychology would tell us it is one of the most critical needs we have as humans. Students in my Cultural Psychology course are shocked to learn the degree of this fact. All humans on earth carry less than a 1% genetic difference. Yes, less than 1% for all of us, no matter our religion, gender, or ethnic background. And race comes down to a sad man-made label, a category for separation. It is easy to believe it is all about ‘us’ and many times we are quick to separate the ‘us’ from the ‘them’. Psychology, again, would tell us there are many reasons why, as humans, we do this,even though truths and established facts never justify those false beliefs.
Awakening with our lives in crisis, the reality is there is no ‘them’. Worldwide, it is just us, humankind. All of us in the small world we created. Our bodies would all suffer the same effects, the same tears of sorrow would fall for loved ones, should this virus cross our paths. No separation in the human experience and no escaping the human side in all of us.
The theme of distance has repeated over and over for me in the last 10 days: from my cousin, my mother, my husband. Is there reflection in distance, in the awakening awareness of what matters, of who matters? Perhaps we find it hard to accept the minute differences between people on this earth, but certainly we can understand that we all share this human experience, and that love, our universal expression of caring, is the bond which truly connects us all.
Copyright Diana Elarde 2020