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Searching for serenity in a time of upheaval

By Linda Militello

A slit of light leaking through my black out shade wakes me in recent mornings. Signals from my full bladder, empty stomach and aching hips force me out of bed. Time is irrelevant since family and physicians stress my immunocompromised condition, a designation that amplifies my elderly vulnerability and relative insignificance in temporary Coronaville. Mental health experts advise routine as crucial to thwart my lifelong mortal enemy, chronic depression.

So I make my coffee. Can I smell it? Good sign. They say that lack of smell is one symptom of Covid-19 infection. I eat yogurt and berries to heal my broken arm and boost my immune system.

My pre-pandemic breakfast location was the dining room table where I keep my laptop, bills, medical updates and ongoing lists that need entering on the calendar. Lately, more time is spent removing dentist and medical appointments, haircuts, volunteer work and sadly, the highly anticipated Shea’s Buffalo performance of “Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me” an NPR show that finds and presents spirit lifting humor or intellectual irony in the worst situations. Now my sewing machine and mask supplies add to the table clutter.

Today, I eat breakfast sitting at our game table facing our easterly window. I mindfully taste each blueberry and sip of Italian coffee. I beg the sun to come or stay to provide the energy that easily vanishes if I read, listen to or watch the unrelenting Covid news.

A magnet on my fridge quotes Louisa May Alcott, “Work is my Salvation.” Alcott cared for soldiers at the Georgetown Union hospital during the Civil War and was devoted to family members until her death at age 55. Caring for others has been my salvation since childhood.

My inactive registered nursing license beckons for reregistration, calling me to the front lines.

Linda Militello.

A week prior to recommended isolation, I visited my hospice-assigned 93-year-old Henry and his wife, Marie. My weekly volunteer visits meant to brighten their days inspired mine. I asked Henry if he got bored with being homebound. With his assuring smile he said, “No, you get used to it. I have my prayers to keep me busy.”

Prescient Marie, an avid reader, shared a book with me, “The Other Side of Chaos” by Margaret Silf. Written in 2011 without any expectation of today’s extreme miseries, each chapter offers wisdom on using our spirituality, not religiosity, to handle any chaos and its aftermath.

Everyone can espouse the Serenity Prayer. We all need serenity to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change what we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Coincidentally, a recent Smithsonian magazine highlighted Florence Nightingale, the ultimate nurse who saved countless lives during the Crimean War. She diagrammed the causes of mortality. David Spiegelhalter, a University of Cambridge statistician and author, calls Nightingale “a one-woman think tank and pressure group,” stating, “She came to believe that, using statistics to understand how the world worked was to understand the mind of God.” Her diagrams profoundly illustrate that mitigable illness, a critical phrase in our Covid lexicon, killed more soldiers exponentially than wounds of battle.

Influenza killed more soldiers through human contact than battle wounds in WWI. Trust science and history. Follow social distancing, hand-washing and mask recommendations.

Trust in science and a higher power can help us through this confusing, unsettling, disorienting time. I diligently try to take one day at a time. I learned from addicted family members, years of working in mental and physical health and St. Matthew 6.34 that “Sufficient for the day are its own troubles.”

Linda Militello, of Williamsville, is turning to history, prayer and being of service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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