Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19

Final Rest

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Under the wearisome pall of constraints in place due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Cyndie’s family orchestrated a laudable graveside service for a small number of family and friends to say final goodbyes to her dad, Fred Friswold, under a mostly cloudy but otherwise dry Saturday. Masks were required and reasonable social distancing requested for the limited 30-minute window of time allowed by Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

We were instructed to arrive at a precise time and remain in our cars until ushered in a parade of vehicles to the gravesite.

The Friswolds have a family plot where Cyndie’s grandparents, her aunt, and her sister have now been joined by her father’s ashes.

In an unfortunate but inconsequential oversight, the canopy ordered to protect from possible rain was missing. The threat of precipitation waned as the appointed hour drew near and by the time we stood as a scattered group to hear various readings and prayers, there were a couple of brief openings in the clouds that revealed blue sky and bathed us in sunshine.

A flock of wild turkeys idly wandered past as if we weren’t there.

Masks served to catch many tears.

From the cemetery, we all drove to the University of Minnesota where the staff of the McNamara Alumni Center –the building Fred and two alumni buddies were instrumental in shepherding to existence– provided a pandemic-constrained space for a meal and program.

It was a day for which I’m confident Fred would approve, partially because only a fraction of the people who would have gushed over his greatness were able to be present so to do.

He touched a lot of people’s lives and impacted exponentially more who never knew him.

I appreciated hearing three different perspectives from people in his world of financial guidance to the YMCA and U of M, as they revealed to me how little first-hand exposure I had to anything but his home and family life.

Fred died in June from a cancer diagnosed the previous December which only compounded preexisting heart and lung ailments. He was clear-minded and fully aware right to the end. In the months since he died, the new reality of his being gone from us was settling in. Yesterday’s events have served to punctuate anew the depths of how much he is missed.

It’s a shame the end of life celebrations are so difficult to hold during a pandemic.

Cyndie’s family did a fine job of achieving all they possibly could under the circumstances.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2020 at 9:06 am

Just Love

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Certainly, there could be worse things to keep coming back to, but my mind has begun to develop a healthy habit of naturally settling on thoughts about sending and receiving LOVE amid the swirl of good and bad circumstances that wash over us with unrelenting regularity.

We learned last night of an unexpected death among our extended family, all too close to the time of Cyndie’s dad’s passing that has everyone already raw with grief. The increasing infection rate of the coronavirus pandemic is pressing firmly against the frustrations of being locked down for months and disrupting dreams of resuming some previous activity.

Plans for the fall are far from settled as to whether schools will be able to open safely and entertainment venues will figure out a way to host events.

It is almost becoming a physically painful thing to not be able to hug people, on top of the ever-awkward absence of a genuine handshake.

Still, we are showered with ongoing blessings that become more precious with each pause for acknowledgment. The gestures of condolence that have arrived in the last two weeks have warmed our hearts.

Last Sunday, Cyndie and I worked on preparing the brooder for the anticipated arrival of 12 new day-old chicks this month. As hard as the loss of birds is on my tender wife, she couldn’t stop herself from ordering more. New life is coming to Wintervale again!

Summer is in full swing in all its glory around our land, regardless of the recent loss of some big trees. We’re preparing to host travelers we’ve not met before from my virtual community, Brainstorms, in the days ahead. We offered a free parking spot for their small RV on their trek home that is taking them right past our neighborhood on the interstate.

I keep imagining how pleasant it would be if the news media took several days off from mentioning anything a certain person says or does and simply focused on news that matters without any distractions or fabricated drama. I do struggle to muster enough love to offset the disturbance that rolls out of the nation’s capital like the irritation of a lingering dead skunk smell.

The high heat and excessively oppressive tropical dewpoint temperatures are hanging around lately even longer than skunk odors, which is definitely exacerbating the angst of those who lack artificial cooling in their homes.

There is good and bad roiling around in a weird mix. What can we do to cope effectively but love?

Just love.

It sure can’t hurt to try.

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— special love goes out to Carlos today for his sorrow and loss —

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2020 at 6:00 am

Return Appearance

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It is challenging to chronicle the uncertain timing of the otherwise inevitable end of the life of a family member. In-person, a question often lingers over whether the latest departure salutation might actually be the last goodbye. Cyndie and her brothers have been rotating days of tending to their father in his hospice-care phase of life for several months. The task is now being transferred to professionals at a nearby hospice facility, unfortunately, under the current constraints of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

It appears we have reached timing now measured in a matter of days, possibly even hours.

A hospice facility is a precious place. I had a great experience at a home where my mother spent her final days and our family was able to gather around her. It breaks my heart that we will be unable to do that for Cyndie’s dad. Visitation is very limited to protect everyone from the coronavirus.

I scanned some of my past “Words on Images” posts to see if something might grab me in this moment and chose “Appearance” from just about a year ago.

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Sending F.R.F. to a higher plane with beams of love and peacefulness…

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Clinging

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We have arrived at the week with the earliest sunrise in our location and the weather is at its most wonderful summer-est. Our doors and windows are open and the ceiling fans are turning, yet the warmth hovers around the edge of too much. Tank tops and loose shorts, bare feet and a tall glass of ice water put things right.

The cut hay in our fields was raked and round-baled on the same afternoon yesterday. If you look close, Cyndie captured a lone deer crossing the image view as the field became draped in the shadow that was replacing the disappearing sunlight.

For as much as we are forbidden to wrap our arms around our fellow friends and family, we are striving to wrap the summer up in a grandiose hug of epic proportions. Despite the chaos of a political circus, a global pandemic continuing its invisible spread, and citizens bellowing for justice against centuries of systemic racism against indigenous peoples, immigrants, and the entire spectrum of non-white human beings, I am just clinging to the precious moment of a few glorious quintessential summer days for their faint distraction of nature at its finest.

We are doing so without a rambunctious picnic of music and food and a hundred of our favorite people. I am doing so without my annual week of biking and camping somewhere around Minnesota with hundreds of friends and brilliant like-minded adventurers. We are doing so without concerts enjoyed among thousands of similar music-loving fans or sports competitions with hoards of supporters cheering on the efforts of athletes at every level of skill.

There will be no county fairs and ultimately, no Minnesota State Fair. Graduations have already been morphed into sometimes blessedly shorter shadows of the usual pomp and circumstance, and weddings and funerals constrained to unrecognizable whispers of the emotional extravagance they deserve.

Navigating the days that turn to weeks and then months of the COVID-19 pandemic is dragging us all into a marathon of paying heed to the best-practice precautions of constraining the spread to manageable levels despite our preference that it just be a short duration fast-walk competition among friends.

My dentist’s office called and left a message that they are now accepting cleaning and checkup appointments scheduled for the fall. My rather feeble home plaque-scraping exercise since my appointment in March was canceled is now going to need to suffice until autumn. Thank goodness I won’t need to waste a beautiful summer afternoon splayed back in the reclined chair getting my teeth cleaned and inspected.

The best medicine I have right now for the pandemonium of current events is the natural summer surroundings of our little paradise. I love it. We love it.

It helps fuel our ability to nurture and grow that love for beaming out into the great big world.

Here is Wintervale LOVE to all who are willing and able to receive it… <muwah>

Cling to that.

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Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Different Boats

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My afternoon commutes home from work usually include a bit of the day’s news on the radio and the repetition of politics, pandemic, and protests of the last few weeks feel like they’re on an endless loop. Rinse and repeat.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a full day, or maybe two, when a certain person didn’t publish a single peep on his Twitter account?

Yesterday’s news offered some haunting hints of increases in COVID-19 cases in the US and other countries. That trend was blamed for the significant drop in the financial markets.

It seems perplexing to me how little my daily activities have been impacted by the ongoing dilemma of the pandemic. I have been lucky to enjoy good health all the while and no one I know directly has reported being diagnosed as becoming sick with the virus.

Basically, nothing of my routine is altered beyond avoiding restaurants and refraining from hugging and shaking people’s hands.

I saw written somewhere that we are all experiencing the same storm, just from different boats. Some are sailing along unscathed in cruise ships and yachts while many more are clinging to whatever they can grab to barely stay afloat.

Cyndie and I are probably in a modest boat that is keeping us dry for now in that metaphoric depiction. That’s more than so many others have.

We are counting our blessings and looking forward to the eventual conquering of the virus, be it months or years.

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Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2020 at 6:00 am

Not Real

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Apparently we are all in this together in these challenging times. That’s the message coming through the airwaves and print ads day after day. Doesn’t really feel like it to me. There are an awful lot of people who are voicing an interest in self over others. I continue to argue that all times are challenging in one way or another, so repeatedly echoing that trope gets annoying.

In the face of the ever-present risk of COVID-19 virus infection spread, we have avoided doing a lot of things. Today is the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. and we have not hit the road to the lake place this year.

I spent yesterday trying to mow our amazing crop of dandelions. The ability of those dandelion stems to survive the spinning blade that severs all the green leaves and grass blades around them is difficult to fathom.

Staying at home provides a little extra time to peruse the news floating around the interweb and I have found a new favorite morsel of absurdity in the Associated Press page of “Not Real News.” It’s a look at what didn’t happen each week.

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media.

For those of you who tour Facebook and Twitter, I recommend you review claims being shared there which raise your ire might turn out to be untrue. There are multiple cases where photos used to make a point have been manipulated, often using images that are years removed from what they are intended to portray.

I do not participate in the primary social media apps so I don’t learn about some of these claims until finding them in the AP article.

Really? There is a circuit board for a 5G installation that has COVID-19 printed on it? Um, no.

A couple of the claims are aiming to make government officials and policies look more inept or corrupt than they really are. Is it much of a stretch to imagine the source of such noisy disruption to our actual news information could be coming from foreign governments? No.

Let’s all be in this together and none of us allow any of the flaky claims to spread. We want the disinformation to all shelter in place!

Be safe out there.

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2020 at 9:02 am

Breakfast Buddy

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It was only a short time ago that Cyndie was visited for a day by a wild roughed grouse while gardening. A couple of days ago, we had a wonderful sighting of a brightly colored oriole in a pine tree outside our window, which is a rare event in the more than seven years we have been here.

Now, we have an iridescent blue-black starling with a very yellow beak who, for the past two days, is showing up to have breakfast with our chickens.

Arriving this morning in a branch overhead, and then making its way down to partake of the grain in the pan on the ground, the chickens only mildly appeared to question the return of this unlikely visitor.

Maybe birds are picking up on these unprecedented extraordinary times of the pandemic and seeking to make an extra connection with others around them.

Wouldn’t surprise me a bit, except for the fact the birds probably aren’t aware the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is infecting humans around the world.

Maybe it has more to do with people slowing down enough to take notice. Who knows? It could be a little bit of both.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2020 at 9:34 am

Not Knowing

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If only we knew. Have I been infected? Do I have antibodies? Will illness strike someone I know? Will the economic depression last very long? Will the food supply chain normalize? Will hospitals near me become overrun? When I get the virus will I have no symptoms, or will I need to be hospitalized? Will there be a second wave?

Thus far, the COVID-19 pandemic has barely impacted my life. I could avoid contributing to the oversaturation of media information on the topic and only write about home projects and the weather as if there is no life-altering virus outbreak disrupting the world all the while. I’d prefer that, actually. But the reality is, there is an undulating ripple that is disturbing the universal foundation of how everything used to work, which makes pretending there isn’t seem conspicuously disingenuous.

Of greater distress to me than not knowing the answers to all the questions in my first paragraph is the growing reality that I no longer have plans on the calendar for going out with friends or family for dinner to celebrate events, or for going to see live music performances, or to go to the lake this summer, or take a week off work to go biking and camping with friends.

We don’t know what we are going to be doing next week, next month, all summer, or next year. That puts a real crimp in the realm of feeling hopeful and inspired.

It’s just not very sexy to replace that kind of hope with the more realistic desires of hoping we all get through this alive and with some semblance of our incomes, assets, and health still intact.

I struggle with a little guilt over feeling like I would prefer to just get the virus and be forced to stay home and do nothing for two weeks just so I could have a few days of certainty and also a little justification for allowing myself to lay in bed until I honestly didn’t want to anymore.

I’m tired. I don’t want to simply appreciate the sunlight shining on the newly blossoming flowers. Dewdrops on the grass. Pond frogs starting to sing again.

I don’t want to meditate on the zen of not knowing.

Well, maybe I do want a little of that meditation, especially in place of hearing one more government briefing about how they are going to ramp up testing or whether or not it is wise to speculate about injecting disinfectant that works on hard surfaces into human bodies.

Is it possible to inhale UV light? That might work.

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be sarcastic.

I feel for those who suffer every day with the fear of getting infected and for the people who are already suffering significant financial disruptions. As well, for those who are needing to work long hours for days and weeks on end at higher risk of infection to care for seriously ill patients.

Here’s to achieving the art of finding peace with not always knowing.

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Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

Unprecedented Battle

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We are in the midst of a great challenge unimagined by many that has unleashed anxious moments and feelings of fear about the unknown during these trying times in an unprecedented battle with an invisible scourge that has people staying home and washing their hands to do their parts in this historic period of incredible sacrifice by those on the front lines in essential jobs that require endless supplies of PPE and forced some families to isolate individual members in basements and closed restaurants and schools causing farmers to lose markets and food shelves to struggle to keep up with demand.

I don’t know why my inner cynic experiences such a cringe reaction at the tiring opening qualifier to almost every human interest story on the news and corporate commercials that are no longer trying to sell anything except some assurance that they are helping consumers and customers during this trying time.

There is another view that I find more satisfying. It’s the long view in reference, yet with the immediate moment as a focus. There is always something challenging, potentially life-threatening, or life-disrupting at play in the world. Among the ongoing calamities in the world, there are people who are killed and people who deal with it and forge onward.

People react to the situation and set about seeking ways to cope. They do creative things like host online cocktail parties or step outside en masse to sing songs. We find ways to deal with the current realities and get on with life, including mourning those who don’t survive.

From this perspective, there is no need for an unending onslaught of messages about “this unprecedented battle” we are in. Life is an everyday battle. There were others before COVID-19 and there will be others after it.

Might as well buck up and put one foot in front of the other –in some cases under the stay-at-home orders, metaphorically– and cope …during “these trying times.”

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Near You

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This morning, I took my temperature again, just like I have every day for the last week. A clear pattern has developed that gives me confidence I will recognize if/when a change starts to occur.

Even without the threat of infection from the current pandemic, I regularly notice odd aches, pains, or unexplained weird sensations that have me noting a possibility of illness visiting my body. Almost always, nothing comes of it. Headache? Maybe I didn’t drink enough water. Throat feels scratchy? There’s probably an allergen in the air.

A day later, I’ve usually forgotten about the previous days’ malady that caught my attention.

Of course, now my first impression when something feels amiss is that I am getting the COVID-19. Although, in that regard, I’m equally inclined to suspect that I’ve already been exposed and haven’t developed any symptoms.

Wouldn’t it be great if officials could get their act together and widely release the increasingly tantalizing simple blood test to check for COVID-19 antibodies that will clarify who is able to get back to life as normal? I’d be one of the first in line after they give us all permission to go out together again.

There is another way I am trying to contribute to a greater understanding of this pandemic. In the US, it is possible to provide your health status to a team at Boston Children’s Hospital to help them map the COVID-19 outbreak. The brilliance of their project is that it doesn’t simply focus on who has been tested, it seeks to collect information from everyone by way of user-submitted reports to fill out the picture of both who is sick and who is still healthy.

COVID Near You is a sister tool of Flu Near You already in use to help communities track cases of seasonal flu.

How are you feeling?

Go to covidnearyou.org and answer that question. Contribute to the map of everyone, both ill and well.

I can’t think of any easier step to take toward contributing to a better world for all, except maybe pausing wherever you are to conjure up some love for the rest of the world.

What the heck, might as well do both.

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Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2020 at 9:00 am