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OPINION: Warm, fuzzy words offer cold comfort


Special to the News

Today, I am casting aside every comforting word my mother, pastor, confidante, spouse, historical figure or political leader ever told me when trying to wipe my tears or calm my fears.

Time to face reality. Ever the optimist, for about a month now, I have clung to the illusion that this — COVID-19 — will knock us off balance briefly and see us bounce right back up again. Now I believe it will in fact bring us to our knees.

This new coronavirus, (named for its distinct crown-shape seen under a microscope) has decided to make us their new BFF — Bad Foe Forever — and has sunk its ragged teeth into thousands upon thousands worldwide.

And although not even our disease control experts, scientists or medical advisors can tell when it will be over, we know it won’t end well.

So when our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to be a reassuring parent in his daily address to the nation, his well-intentioned words, “we’ll get through this together,” do little to console me.

Social distancing and self-isolation, shuttered shops and schools, home work stations, our “ghost towns” and limited  travel — especially under the recently enacted  federal Quarantine Act measures — can make us feel that we are mostly doing this alone.

Social media has thrown us a lifeline; however,  so many milestones, happy and sad, are being missed. Even with virtual experiences, it is very hard not being able to fully celebrate events like  births, weddings and graduations or grieve with  bereaved friends and family as COVID-19 becomes an uninvited, unwelcome guest. 

And so, classic comfort calls such as:

“This too shall pass,” “God only gives us as much as we can bear,”  “these things are sent to try us,” “what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger,” “there’s always a silver lining,” “there is nothing to fear, but fear itself,” and so on … really don’t cut it at times like this.

I have even shrugged off my all time favourite inspiration in moments of despair: a scene from Gone with the Wind when Scarlett OHara has been rebuffed by Rhett Butler and with all the conviction she can muster, utters the words: “Tomorrow is another day.” 

Well, for me, those words are likely the least hopeful or helpful ones to abide by when each new day brings news of an ever reaching COVID-19 that tightens its grip and extends its reach here and all over the world.

By all indications, tomorrow, BC health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, will likely deliver more bleak news with greater numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and, sadly, more deaths. These new numbers — 3,400 cases in Canada, as of Monday — like invisible ink, will vanish moments after writing them.

On Monday, the PM’s address contained more first aid news along with the uplifting phrase, “bridge to better times” which sounds good, poetic even. However, this will be an untested structure, one requiring skilled architects and engineers because it has to support a record number of people who  — all at the same time  —  want to reach the other side safely.

From time to time, Justin will ask for my advice, and, if I’m not too busy, I usually offer a few words of wisdom and guidance. Most often, he replies with a terse email: “Thank you Ms. Mallam for taking the time to write.” But then, next day, his address to the nation is sprinkled with my very words and ideas, so of course I know he’s listening.

This bridge for example, provided that I could clear it first with the song writers, and singers Simon and Garfunkel (?) I would suggest calling Trudeau’s new expansive bridge the Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

You’re welcome.

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