Well, here I am days away from another birthday and incredibly grateful for the gift of reaching another year. Last year was such a devastating time, so many people lost to an illness that was sweeping the globe. In the first few months of 2020, the virus seemed so far away and so random but all too soon, fear began to cover the world like a mysterious cloud. Understandably, we felt fear to be around strangers, even friends and soon, fear to even leave our homes as this enemy was so hidden. It was such a heartbreaking year for everyone, losses we will never forget. Now, with just a few months into this new year, there is hope that we have a chance to slow it down and hopefully in time end the nightmare of illness and death that enveloped our lives.

Having now had my two vaccines, I felt a little bit of relief. Of course, I am clear that nothing is guaranteed but I did allow myself to sleep more peacefully. A few days later, I begin to reflect on how our lives had changed and the things we missed. From a simple hand shake to a much-needed hug. So many conversations with friends over coffee, best friend lunches, volunteering for our church or favorite charity. No trips to see loved ones, not even the ability to pay our last respects to people we lost. We changed everything and while it was absolutely important that we do so, it was hard, and in reality, we still lived in fear of the mysterious illness and probably will for a many more days, weeks or more.

After recalling the past year, I also believe that amid all of the fear, sadness and loss, we may have also received a gift. For most of us, we will never take for granted the joy of meeting a friend for a coffee, or the ability to see a person smile as we pass them on the sidewalk. The gift of family gathering at holidays, the pride of watching your children or grandchildren walking across a stage to receive a much-deserved diploma. Even a simple action of picking up a flower in the store to smell the fragrance not hidden through a mask.  I believe we have been reminded how much we should treasure the simple things, the happy moments we can remember for a lifetime.

Yes, a year like none other. A time that brought fear to even the bravest of all of us. We will always wish that it never happened, that the lives we lost could have been spared. Collectively, we owe debts that can never be repaid to the thousands of people who put their fear aside to care for the sick, to serve and protect everyone. We truly were and remain surrounded by heroes.

As we begin to move forward, may we always remember the kindness of neighbors that offered to shop for elderly, the workers that spent hours sanitizing shopping carts, the kind hearts that made masks to keep us safe when none could be found, so many amazing acts of humanity as we all struggled. Phone calls just to check on friends and family. The handwritten notes to let someone know they have not been forgotten. With so many things taken away, it was amazing to see how we came together in so many ways.

For the many lives lost, the most wonderful way to honor them is to go forward remembering the good that we received and continue to live the best lives that we can. We stood up to the fear and we came together to become stronger and found our courage to face the challenges before us.