Like many folks worldwide, I am getting adjusted to my new norm of staying mostly inside the house except for necessary trips. In Maryland, where I reside and in 19 other states and the District of Columbia, stay in place orders or closure of all non-essential businesses remain in place. Each day brings a new reality. At first, I left outside for my daily drive through of my beloved Dunkin Donuts coffee. Then I realized drive through coffee wasn’t worth getting sick or dying for. As a trial lawyer with courts closed, there’s not much going on in the work area. With a lot of time on my hands, I started to think of those persons who are experiencing grief, joy and pain in their new norm.
Birth of a child and near- death bring changes to how hospitals now respond to visitors. Childbirth and the experience of a baby being born is often a joyful experience for many folks. Columbia University Medical Center, a New York hospital set policy barring all visitors including childbirth partners, friends, family and spouses during childbirth delivery due to increased risk of Coronavirus. Johns Hopkins hospital will allow one parent for pediatric visits. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked all hospitals and overnight medical facilities to only allow visits to end-of-life patients and exclude all other visitors. Johns Hopkins will allow two visitors in end of life circumstances. And many nursing homes now prohibit visitors. The Veterans Affairs nursing homes prohibit visitors except for patients near death in hospices.
This time three years ago, I spent time with my brother who was battling cancer. Folks still are fighting cancer during the Coronavirus. Coronavirus didn’t stop cancer and other serious life- threatening diseases. The Coronavirus changed how institutions handle aspects of the disease. Many patients have weekly chemotherapy, radiation, oncology visits, surgery and rehabilitation visits. With many hospitals now denying visitors to help curb the spread of the virus, it’s more painful for those suffering with life threatening illnesses and diseases. Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore now denies visitors except in very limited circumstances. I can’t imagine that I would not have been able to be with my brother during his time in the hospital.
The joy of getting married or engaged has taken a back seat to the Coronavirus. Many counties across the country, from New York to Los Angeles, suspended marriage licenses to protect workers in court houses. Marriage licenses and courthouse marriages are being hit. Many folks had already planned weddings but not picked up a marriage license which is usually valid for 30 days. Others sought to marry sooner due to Coronavirus and the need for health insurance from a partner, emotional reasons—among other reasons. Those having already planned weddings with venues and vendors will need to adjust their plans.
We still hear of joy. Some teachers around the country in Maryland, Texas, Mississippi, Minnesota and other states are traveling in parades while staying inside their cars to wave to young school age children–who probably are too young to understand our circumstances. A Massachusetts photographer captures photographs of families on their porches. Sometimes a simple photo may bring joy.
As we reflect on our own situations, let’s also reflect on others who may be experiencing grief, joy and pain beyond our own circumstances. And for those of us who are spiritual, let’s send lots of love, light and healing during these times of joy, grief and pain.
“Joy and pain are like sunshine and rain
Over and over you can be sure
There will be sorrow but you will endure
Where there’s a flower there’s the sun and the rain
Oh and it’s wonderful they’re both one in the same.”
Lyrics by Frankie Beverly (Sung by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly)
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor.