Over the past year, many of us have watched family and friends recover from the virus that ripped through our bodies. We have seen politicians who mocked mask mandates quickly recover after receiving experimental antibody treatments, even as many people were denied any treatment at all when they first became ill.
We are angry. We are scared. We are grateful to be alive. But many of us are still in the battle of our lives.
When you are fighting a serious illness for a long time, it can be a hard and lonely place. But at least once in their lives, most people will find themselves in a soul-shaking season of trauma, tragedy or loss. It could be a sickness or a shooting, an accident or the loss of a great love, a betrayal, the death of a child. When you are in your darkest winter, you’ll find strength from the people who are willing to go to the hard, messy places with you until you come out on the other side.
This year, many people have walked through that season with me. Some had been friends since before we were old enough to drive. Others I had never met before.
They pushed me to keep going in those moments when I wanted to give up. They prayed with me, and cried with me, and checked in on me. They coaxed me into taking up yoga, a form of exercise that I had long resisted but that has done for me what many medications could not. They cooked my favorite foods. They walked me to the emergency room. They made sure my prescriptions got to me, which in one case involved a boat. They stood with me in the middle of the street when I stopped to catch my breath.
Among my favorite possessions now is a hot pink hand-painted card made for me by Chelsea, my college roommate, and her 3-year-old daughter, Maya. Chelsea also happens to be a health care worker, and is a huge support. “Tía Mara,” the card says. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
You don’t have to wear scrubs to bring encouragement and hope to someone who is suffering.
One day this summer, I was sitting alone in a frigid Manhattan emergency room when I saw a man standing in the hallway outside, waving at me through the glass.