Like the jigsaw puzzle that lay in a thousand pieces on my dining room table, the corona virus turned our lives into a jumble of sharp edges, disjointed bits and oddly shaped pieces.
It was the best of times. The natural world took a deep breath for the first time in centuries. People on pause noticed subtle changes in their surrounding landscapes. The weather was sunny and warm, spring was in the scented breeze and in the softening soil. Daffodils bobbed yellow heads in the garden like children romping on playgrounds. Maples, ash and oak unfurled firm green buds, holding them aloft as if in victory over the war winter had raged and lost.
It was the worst of times. The man-made world held its breath, afraid of catching covid-19. People on pause chafed to resume activities that, like breathing, had been part of their everyday lives. Designated areas of the nation were hot spots ripe for disease. Long Island was pinned on the map as a place to avoid. It was the place my aunt called home for sixty-five of her eighty-eight years . . .
Call me Judith. Some days ago, never mind how long precisely, Aunt Ellen passed away. There is nothing surprising in this. People pass away all the time. Except now a relentless, insidious germ that has pushed thousands to their deaths, pushed my aunt down a slippery slope from which her fragile body could not gain a foothold.
Since my birth, my aunt had called me Judith; never mind that wasn’t my given name, it was the name she gave me. Written on cards, letters, gifts and mementos, in her beautifully executed script, my downstate aunt wrote words of encouragement to her upstate niece. “You are a true writer,” Aunt Ellen told me once, “you can turn anything into a story.” I framed those precious words in my heart. Aunt Ellen had no way of knowing that one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite books is, “’It IS a story,’ said Sara. ‘EVERYTHING’S a story. You are a story—I am a story. Miss Minchin is a story.’” (A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett).
Though separated by miles, our hearts were joined by love for God and family. Though we didn’t share day-to-day life, we shared belief in the next life, a paradise where neither sickness nor sorrow nor separation would come between us.
Pneumonia waged a frontal attack on her body while corona climbed through an unguarded window into her lungs. Together, they won the battle, but not the war. The final victory awaits. One day all the puzzle pieces will fit, the picture will be whole, life will make sense, I will see my aunt again.