Coronavirus Panic

Friday, March 13, 2020
woman using hand sanitizer

I’m having a hard time understanding the panic over the coronavirus. Maybe it’s the perspective of age. Life used to be a lot more dangerous than it is now. Other than the danger from the hate of our fellow citizens.

When I was growing up, there were a whole slew of “childhood diseases”—measles, chicken pox, mumps, German measles (yeah, named after a country)—that most children had. We only had two vaccines, DPT, which stood for diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus, and smallpox. The only way to get immunity from the others was to have the disease and survive it. No one I knew died from any of them.

I managed to get chicken pox and measles at the same time, long after most of my friends had survived those two separately. I was pretty sick, out of it, maybe delirious, for three days. But then my fever broke and my biggest concern was that I was going to miss The Lone Ranger on TV. My mother promised to put it on, but only if I kept my eyes closed. I promised her I would just listen to it, but after she left the room, I did take a couple of peeks.

Yeah, when you got the measles, supposedly you could go blind from bright light. You were kept in a dark room, and my eyes, at least, got glued closed by some crusty stuff.

One of my friends got scarlet fever, a rarer and more dangerous disease. She was kept isolated in her bedroom. Fortunately, she was the only girl of five children, so she already had her own bedroom while her brothers shared one. She, too, recovered. Neither of us went to a hospital.

My biggest fear was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nikita Khrushchev had placed Russian missiles 90 miles off our coast, with the cooperation of Fidel Castro, the dictator who controlled Cuba.

All throughout my elementary school days, we’d had “duck and cover” drills, where they announced a nuclear bomb was headed our way, and we should dive under our desks and cover our heads. (Like that would do any good.) In junior high, this changed to going out in the hallway, sitting down facing the walls, and covering our heads. So this imminent threat was all too real.

We’d all grown up knowing about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, seen newsreel clips about the devastation afterwards, so we were fairly certain a nuclear attack wasn’t something we’d survive. I lived in a constant state of fear.

Fortunately, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved without using weapons.

I’ve faced other dangers in my life, and I’m still here, relatively healthy, with a roof over my head, food to eat, and my cats to cuddle with.

One thing I have realized over the past week is that I’m no longer afraid to die. I kept hearing how the people most at risk were those over sixty and those with underlying health problems. My first thought was that sixty wasn’t so old. I’m seventy-two. This was followed by, “Wait. They’re talking about me!”

I turned that thought over in my mind for a while. Apparently, my odds of dying from coronavirus are higher than average. I don’t feel more vulnerable. But suppose I did catch coronavirus and die? Okay, I’ll go to heaven.

I stopped and said that last to myself again. I’ll go to heaven.

I’ve had a lot of doubts about religion in my life. Even now, when I go to church and say the ancient words and sing the hymns, I wonder if I really believe everything I’ve been taught, if I’m a good-enough Christian to qualify for eternal salvation.

But deep inside me, I do believe I’ll go to heaven when I die, which is a good place to be. So maybe it isn’t age that makes me unafraid during a pandemic. Maybe it’s the faith I didn’t even realize I had.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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