The Good Press — Issue #46: Life

The Good Press by Jon Presser: A newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind
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A glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel gives us time to reflect on the fragility of life, everything we’ve endured this past year, and those we’ve lost along the way.

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.

Thanks for reading. I hope you find this issue to be worth your time.

Comments and reader suggestions are always welcome.

A COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card issued by the CDC
I hope you become familiar with this as soon as you can (Image: Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Life

For those who’ve been waiting with bated breath after my Parting Thoughts from last week about making vaccination appointments for myself, my fiancée, and her parents, I am thrilled to provide a wonderful update: The four of us have successfully received our first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Thank you, Dolly Parton (seriously).

Last Friday, February 26, my fiancée and I drove out to a mass vaccination site at a high school in Queens and we got the most eagerly-anticipated (literal) shot in the arm of our lives. We were in-and-out in about an hour, including the 15-minute post-shot “cooldown” where on-site workers both ensured no allergic reactions and assisted with second-dose appointments.

My future in-laws went to a site in the Bronx, and all went well there, too. For the next day or so, my left arm felt like I’d done a whole lot of push-ups, but other than that, I felt fine. Later this month, we will receive our second dose. New York City seems to be doing much better at getting shots into arms now than they were at the start of the vaccine rollout, and thank goodness for that. I recommend keeping an eye on TurboVax.info for NYC folks. Wherever you are, please do everything you can to get vaccinated as soon as you can.

One of my fiancée’s childhood friends (I’ll call him “C.J.”) lives ten minutes away from the vaccination site. Since C.J. is more familiar with the area than we are, he helped us navigate the lay of the land. C.J. works at an elder care facility and thus is already fully inoculated with both doses of his vaccination, so we three were able to have a nice afternoon together with some relief from social distancing for the first time in a year. It felt like a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that’s been the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It ended up being fortuitous that we were over in his neck of the woods, and we all needed some great, big hugs and we certainly got them. As happy as we were to spend time with C.J., these hugs on Friday were cathartic but also somber, unfortunately, because another close childhood friend of both C.J.’s and my fiancée’s spent much of the past year in hospice care because of a terminal illness known as cystic fibrosis, a devastating chronic lung disease.

C.J. and my fiancée have known their friend Erica since childhood, and because of her illness, Erica had moved from NYC out to New Mexico at the onset of the pandemic to be closer to her parents. C.J. had already booked a plane ticket to fly out and see her in person and we knew she didn’t have much time left. I think we all needed that afternoon last Friday to hug each other and support each other as Erica’s condition continued to worsen.

Erica and my fiancée spent so many hours each day corresponding with one another, and Erica requested to have some of her journal entries published because she wanted to share some thoughts with the world before her final goodbye. Friday evening, my fiancée put the finishing touches on a beautiful tribute to Erica on her Medium writing space, including Erica’s diary entries:

I was fortunate to have met Erica and spent some time with her a few times in the years that I’ve been dating my fiancée, and I was always blown away by her strength and her spirit as she battled her incurable, debilitating disease. I hope you make time for what my fiancée wrote, plus Erica’s diary entries. Saturday morning, hours after the publishing of the words above that Erica was so proud of, we got the bad news: Erica had passed away at the age of 32.

In Other Words

Never forget how precious life can be; how fragile life can be.

Erica never contracted COVID-19, but she was born with a burden of an illness that robbed her of any chance to live a long, healthy life. Nevertheless, she lived as full a life as her body would allow her to live, beating the odds and touching the lives of so many who were lucky enough to call her a friend.

For those who knew Erica and for those who did not, it’s a harsh reminder to cherish every waking moment while you can. Nothing in life is guaranteed other than its inevitable end, but we can always control the way that we live.

One of Erica’s heroes was Claire Wineland, an activist, an author, and a fellow “CF Warrior” who passed away from cystic fibrosis at age 21 in 2018. The documentary about Claire’s life (and how she lived) is a powerful look into the world of cystic fibrosis and what one can do despite harsh challenges that sadly cannot be alleviated with any vaccines or non-invasive therapeutics.

Parting Thoughts

My fiancée and C.J. were two of Erica’s best and closest friends, and it felt like fate that they were able to spend time together and speak to Erica one last time on the day before she passed peacefully in her sleep. Even though we always knew this day would come tragically sooner rather than later, the reality of losing someone close to you at a young age is hard to prepare for.

We get better at coping over time, but some days are better than others. I’m glad that Erica is at peace, that she went with dignity in her sleep, and that she is truly in a better place now, free from the burden of her fragile body.

When I was in college, a friend of mine died at age 25 from leukemia. I still have his contact info on my phone and his birthday on my digital calendar. I reflect on the feelings I remember from back then when I’m offering support to my partner and to C.J., but grief is not something that ever truly goes away.

It’s not always going to be easy. There may always be a tinge of survivor’s guilt for those who didn’t roll snake eyes in the genetic lottery, but beating yourself up over being able to take another breath isn’t worth more grief. Instead, we have to treasure life and treat life with the reverence it deserves.

As this past year has starkly shown us, loved ones can be here one minute and gone the next. The best thing you can do is live freely, with love in your heart, doing everything you can to keep the flame of their memories alive. To do that is to take care of yourself and make the most of each and every day. Life is beautiful. Life is sacred. Life is a gift. Live yours to the fullest, always.

Once we are all vaccinated and safe from spreading COVID-19, I imagine this decade of the 2020s will roar with ferocity. Let’s get there together, as many of us as possible, safely and healthily. Once we get there, we will live it up. But we must always carry the spirit and memory of those we’ve lost with us, so that they may live on in our hearts and minds for as long as can muster.

After everything we’ve endured this past year, from one March to another, we’ve found renewed appreciation for so much that we take for granted. How will you spend the rest of your life, your post-pandemic life? For the first time in a long, long time, there’s a real tangibility to pondering post-pandemic life. I will be pondering it for many days to come, and I encourage you to, too.

Till next time,

-Jon

Previously in The Good Press

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