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A pandemic is an epic of sorrow, prompting an appreciative shout-out to publishers Cliff Carlson and Cathy Curry Carlson for continued publication of Irish American News at a time when news media outlets are ravaged by the fallout of covid-19. Gratitude too for reporters, columnists, news photographers and most especially for Chicago’s local advertisers who tout their wares on these pages and keep Irish American News a newsworthy and enjoyable monthly read.  With Carlson and Carlson at the helm they also deserve the support of IAN readers.

As a culture we don’t talk about death, are quick to shun sadness and while grief cannot be fixed it must be acknowledged, in fact acknowledgment is the best medicine for family, friends and colleagues facing the loss of a loved one. The coronavirus has smothered humanity in an avalanche of grief that at press time shows no let-up. The universe is reeling from daily tallies of deaths at home and across the globe. Our stamina collapses, routine disappears, we are consumed with fear, quarantined in our homes, absorbing mixed messages from political and medical gurus who cannot provide answers. We indulge in a leap of faith that our lives will return to normal as the virus withers under the gun of a powerful vaccine.

I am not a  moralist, but for those who pray and those who forget, take up the beads, storm heaven asking for divine guidance for medical and scientific minds to create the chemical formula banishing this deadly attacker, instilling confidence that we can be healthy again. A gift worth praying for.

Easter was a bust, dinner alone, three hard boiled eggs and apple sauce created from four green apples lonesome in refrigerator for ions. Yes, cupboards are bare, freezer shelves barren, food fantasies taunt and tantalize, and a pot of Trader Joe’s Irish tea keeps madness at bay. Meanwhile, we keep a death vigil for those contaminated and I pray especially for Doctor Anne Margaret, a niece on the front lines in charge of an Emergency Room at a Boston Hospital.

Meanwhile reports swirl through the rumor mill that the Blarney Stone is going out of fashion. Soon to follow will be hugging, kissing and  handshakes, rituals of the past. In County Clare, business and community leaders in the resort town of Kilkee have condemned   the distribution of leaflets threatening holiday owners to do the right thing: “Get the f**k Out of Kilkee Now. If you do not leave, when this crisis is over you may not have a holiday home to return to this summer.”

Kilkee, a tourist treasure on the Atlantic Ocean sheltered by Loop Head Peninsula features scenic walks along the Atlantic Ocean protected by Horseshoe Bay.

In the beginning of this quarantined life-style we adapted a lackadaisical routine. Nothing pressing, breakfast in bed, a leisurely read of the morning newspapers, a pot of tea, relaxation that heralded a no-guilt reprieve. The treadmill of our daily grind came to a shattering end. We grabbed on to constructive solitude and adjusted to social distancing.

We are hog-tied to unusual daily press conferences. We surrender to a motivational by-pass, even making lists of our death wishes and who gets what when the end arrives. The things I cherish, will my daughters want them in their homes? A library of cookbooks dispelling the stigma the Irish can’t cook. Evening clothes necessary in the high and exciting life in Chicago, wraps edged in feathers and jewels, a long black velvet cape with a sable collar worn to the gala opening in the posh Winter Garden of the Harold Washington Public Library. Oprah Winfrey was there, encased in flowing chiffon to camouflage whatever required hiding. The leaders, dignitaries, politicians, clergy and celebrities were present. Perhaps one might crave a long cape with a sable collar? Be appropriate strolling along Michigan Avenue on Halloween!

I read excessively, pen e-mails to friends and family and realize that grief pairs well with introspection. I recall what the German-Dutch medieval canon,Thomas Kempis maintained: all grievous things are to be endured for eternal life, suffering imbued with meaning and purpose. When I married at age twenty-one, I presented my spouse with a leather bound, gold leafed copy of Kempis’ book Imitation of Christ. Spouse presented me with a paperback, a book for Brides outlining ways to surrender to your husband. I left it on a seat at Boston’s Logan Airport en route to a honeymoon in Montreal!

The Irish have an affliction for bringing to light blessings in bad times. In fact Ireland rates number one in the ritual of mourning. How many times have we heard:  “things could be worse?” Perhaps famine and invasion have spurned and infused such tolerance. A year of mourning was maintained by a grieving widow, daughter, son, father, mother. Appropriate attire was part of the ritual. Males wore black armbands, women black clothing and black wreaths hung on front doors. “Time Heals” was and is the philosophy, the only antidote to recovery. At press time I received an e-mail from Ireland informing that cousin Patrick (Paddy), confined to a nursing home where six patients have been diagnosed with covid-19. My dear friend experiencing high temperatures had stopped eating. A funeral regrettably not possible to attend.

As we go forward in fear of the future, express feelings, suffer through the dull pain of your own immortality. The only way to confront these thoughts is go through them.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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