By Louis DeLauro
I watched my wife, a survivor of three heart surgeries, put on two masks and go into Shop Rite tonight during the 9th-week of the pandemic.
My wife insisted she would shop this week. This was her first time entering a store since mid-March. My wife is the strongest person I know.
Knowing how much pain she has lived through in this lifetime and now watching her endure the New Jersey pandemic, today, I am feeling broken. But it will be my turn to shop next week. I am rarely broken. After suffering from depression back in college, my life has been more good than bad.
I am always even; I am often optimistic. I am present. Never broken.
Even holding my wife’s hand in the recovery room after all three of her heart surgeries, I was not broken. She was physically and emotionally broken, but I was okay, so I could be there for her. She recovered three times and I cheered her on.
My wife, my daughter, and I got an undisclosed virus from March 20 to April 20. It was a nightmare.
Was it Covid-19? I can’t definitively say that it was. I do know to be as sick as I was, and seeing my wife and daughter sick while the world was falling apart was too much for me to handle. Diarrhea and a daily fever took me down. Pink eyes filled with tears broke me. While I was sick, people I knew were dying, and a few others were on vents. All of the uncertainty, the physical illness and the thoughts in my head, broke me. The fever and sleepless nights also broke me.
So, if I am broken. I am thinking maybe, many of you are too.
I recently watched a Facebook friend’s video that she posted online. She was rightfully sad to write, “I wish my daughter’s graduation was a bigger celebration.” I watched her beautiful daughter walk across an empty stage.
Then her daughter stood face to face in front of two adults. She was not wearing a mask, and neither were they. She shook their hands, and then she hugged the people on the stage.
My eyes got wide. I was shocked to see the girl pose for photos with these two people on stage. I know other parts of the country have less strict social distancing in place than New Jersey. Still, at first, I was horrified by this simple interaction. How could they not be wearing masks? What?
She shook hands with the adults on stage and hugged them! What did I just see? And then I paused.
And I realized the people on the stage were her parents. The girl’s parents handed her the diploma and hugged her.
I rewound the video and watched it again. And I wiped some tears. Not because I was overwhelmed by sadness (even though I was). I cried because so many people I love are overwhelmed by sadness and possibly broken. My wife. My daughter. My sisters. My parents. My friends. My colleagues. My students. My neighborhood. My town. My state. We are all hurting so much.
My sad tears turned happy after watching the video of the girl graduating a third time.
This time I noticed that she was smiling. She was glowing. She looked strong. And beautiful. Her parents looked so happy—so strong and beautiful too. The video was amazing!
This girl’s graduation suddenly became symbolic. She made it! She spent K-12 in school and then graduated during a pandemic. And her parents were with her on stage to cheer her on. They were clearly proud of her.
Tonight, every person I saw walk in and out of the grocery store looked broken. But now, when I think about it after seeing the graduation video, the people walking in and out of the store also looked beautiful and strong. They made it! In and out of that store. And as they left the store, i quietly cheered them on.
When my wife walked out of the store tonight she looked beautiful and strong as well. Just like the graduating girl. I helped her put the groceries in our car, and I told her I was proud of her. And I was.
I desperately want to fix all of the broken people I know.
If you are broken:
I want to shake your hand.
I want to hug you.
I want to take photos with you on stage.
I want to cheer you on.
I am proud of you.
Next week, it’s my turn to shop. I am going to live through this and be better for it.
Once I fix myself, I will turn my attention to you.
I so badly want to hold your hand.
And hug you.
Next week, it’s your turn to shop.
It’s your turn to smile and glow. And walk across that stage.
Let’s graduate together.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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