We have started 2021 with a bang. Visual images we will remember: rioters, insurrection, inauguration, a sea of flags, protests, hymns, military salutes, face masks. We may forget what we had for lunch yesterday, but we seem to recall times of importance, which reflect special events, holidays, gatherings or simply landmarks that are embedded in our minds. 

The last Christmas with our parents, the day our child was born, graduations, weddings, funerals, first steps and last words. Our time on this amazing planet is limited. We have more similarities as a human race than we do differences. We thrive on purpose, love, freedom and connection. Yet, sometimes our disagreements are glaring in the spotlight of social media, news and politics, as if that is who we are as a people. As if those differences are what matters most.

Together, as a nation, we crossed the threshold of 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus. These were our grandparents, parents, spouses, family, colleagues and neighbors. Sometimes the narrative has been that these folks were on their “last legs” and were mostly elderly and frail people who were going to die soon anyway. Sure, we will read about the horror of a 41-year-old Broadway star who was fit and healthy who died from COVID-19, but then that was the “exception.” What is really happening is that the folks who died were a swath of our society, many old, young, healthy, some with co-morbidities, others with none. They are you and me. 

My client and friend, Bob, passed from coronavirus. He was in his 70s and living his life. He was active in his business, adored his beautiful wife, was fun-loving and kind. My friend’s husband died at age 60. A long-distance runner and a branch manager of a bank, he was well and happy. My neighbor’s mother passed. My niece and great-niece became very ill with the virus and thankfully survived. One still has no sense of taste or smell. Our personal world may be small, yet we can look around at the families who have seen the virus sweep through their lives like a wrecking ball, claiming loved ones, leaving excruciating pain and sorrow.

Collectively, as a nation, we have been through a lot. We are still reeling from the spectacle of Jan. 6, when our Capitol was under siege. We see conspiracy theories flourish about everything from lizard people (shape-shifting, blood-sucking reptilian humanoids plotting to control the human race — geez) to deep-state players. Disinformation continues to menace the airwaves and social media. Politics can be ugly. 

Ideologies divide us, but democracy is why we still are standing together, praying for peace and unity. We hope for better things to come.

In the words of Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, “We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it — if only we’re brave enough to be it. … We must put our differences aside.”

And so, a new day begins. And that’s the hill we will climb.

—Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local

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