Far left to near left in birth order: Sheila, Pam, Denise and me. 

Hey y’all, it’s been a while since I wrote to you. Sorry about that, but I’ve had so much going on since last Mother’s Day.

It’s ironic to me that on Dec. 31 each year, we wish people a Happy New Year, and we say, “this year has to be better than last year.”

Does that ever happen for anyone? How’s 2021 going for you? As I get older, it seems that each year gets harder and harder, and part of that seems to include more sickness and death around me. Frankly, it’s been a tough decade and a few years.

In 2009 my Dad died. He was 77. In 2010 a 21-year-old young man I knew very well died. That same year my last living grandparent, Grandma Pearl (Anthony), died. She was 93. In 2019, Mom died at the age of 82.

Last year dealt another devastating blow with the death of my partner at the age of 50 after a lengthy illness and a year on hospice. I’m still reeling from that nine months later and wondering how to pick up those pieces and stay alive.

I now know what it really means when people say they just want to die, too, after a partner or spouse dies. Being alone is extraordinarily hard, and it’s exacerbated with the added aspect of COVID.

I’m paralyzed in making certain decisions because I don’t want to change anything in the house at this time. For me, it feels like a betrayal of sorts. The photos we hung on the wall, how the silverware is neatly stacked in the drawer, any potential or suggested changes to the house, and even the location of the TV for Pete’s sake. It was moved so my partner could see out the front windows once confined to the hospital bed provided by hospice.

Two weeks later after my partner’s death, one of my brothers-in-law had a fatal heart attack.

With the COVID pandemic, I have been fortunate enough — until now — to be spared any family members contracting the virus that has killed millions across the world, including here in the U.S.

At the moment of me writing this, I’m on my second 10-day quarantine from work due to COVID. Both were a result of direct contact with someone who has or had the virus.

The first was an attorney friend of mine who I consider a great friend. Yes, I was worried for her and her family, and thankfully they all recovered. I had to work from home for 10 days and have two negative COVID tests. That went well, and I returned to the office. It was a long 10 days. Sure, I talked to people on the phone, but that doesn’t compare to seeing someone in person.

Last weekend, after not seeing my family — most who live just two hours away — in well over a year, I went to my youngest nephew’s wedding.

Before you say it, I knew the risks of traveling and being around people I didn’t know. But this was important enough for me to take that risk.

I’m (well, me, two dogs and two birds) on another 10-day quarantine because since Sunday, two of my sisters and one of my brothers-in-law have COVID. But they were already feeling bad but tested negative before the wedding, so I don’t think that beautiful gathering was the culprit.

Do we really know the culprit? How long will we have to put parts of our life on pause? My third sister and I have had our first round of vaccines, so I’m sure we had some protection from the virus.

It was so good to see them all. We hugged, we cut up, we laughed. And we remembered what COVID had robbed us of — time. Time apart we’ll never get back. That’s part of what drew me to the trip. My sisters and I had not all been together since Christmas 2019.

With all the loss in the last 11 months I question the meaning of life and how to live it fully. I know that quarantine helps stop the spread, and I certainly realize that I’m not the only person who has experienced devastating loss, either COVID related or not. All I’m saying is “here’s what I’ve been through.”

I guess it was a pipe dream that all of my immediate family — three sisters, two brothers-in-law, eight nieces and nephews and eight great nieces and nephews — would escape COVID.

I fervently pray the three who have it will recover without complications. At this point, none have had to be hospitalized. For that, I am deeply grateful.

My story isn’t extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination. So many people are suffering right now.

I had to learn emotional self-care a long time ago, and I do my best to incorporate some of those practices into my daily life. One of those things is gratitude — for life, for health, for family, my faith and so much more. When I practice gratitude, I free my mind of the worry. Yes, it creeps back in, but I pull the gratitude card back out to keep it at bay. Sometimes gratitude eludes me, but if I search inside deep enough, it’s there.

I am hopeful my family will recover quickly and no one else comes down with this horrid disease that has no respect for life.

Another thing I’m grateful for is you — people I don’t even know — who read words I have written nearly every day as a journalist. If any article I write leads someone to action, moves them to tears, gives them something to think about, then my job is well done.

I fully expect to have a second negative COVID test and return to the office on Wednesday. In the meantime, I hope you all stay safe as well.