Thoughts of Pandemic, Death, and Rebirth

September 19, 2020 0 By Michael

Thoughts of Pandemic, Death, and Rebirth

H. Michael HarveySep 19 · 5 min read

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

In the closing days of 2019, my social media newsfeed was replete with comments from friends and strangers, near and far, lamenting how dastardly 2019 had been and excitingly looking forward to 2020. A clearer vision, they all proclaimed. While I looked forward to the dawn of 2020, I dismissed much of what I was reading on my computer screen.

There were still hours of 2019 to live, to taste, and to enjoy; singing Auld Lang Syne would arrive like clockwork at midnight as December 31 gives way to January 1.

After all, 2019 was a good year for me. I finally wrote and published my memoir, Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2019), where I told the world my story from my point of view. Also, I reached the age of 68 without feeling the passing of time from that day in October 2018 when I hit the 67-year mark. Life was good. Time slowed for me, getting younger by the day, I wanted to experience every moment 2019 had to offer.

I did occasionally peer into 2020 in the days leading up to that midnight moment when the world evokes the forgetfulness of things past:

Should old acquaintance be forgot And never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgotten, And long, long ago”.

I could not glean much, yet I had high expectations of winning a book award for my memoir, and I looked forward to an active book signing tour introducing my book to the world. I did win a bronze medal from the Living Now Book Awards in the category of an inspirational memoir by a male writer. The book tour will have to wait for another day, most likely, another year. In the meantime, I am writing at a feverish pace. I’ve written and published two books during the lockdown, The Duke of 18th & Vine: Bob Kendrick Pitches Negro League Baseball and My C. T. Vivian Story: A Powerful Flame That Burned Brightly, both (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2020).

Little did I, nor any of us, know 2020 would be like no other year on the planet in the last 100 years. We had no way of knowing that a pandemic was on the horizon, who knows, perhaps it was already here.

Around Thanksgiving 2019, I waxed the hardwood floors in the dining and living rooms of my home. I used more of the cleaning solution than necessary. In the following days, my sinuses began to drain; I developed a cough, shortness of breath, and an inability to dislodge a collection of mucus in my chest area.

Finally, visiting the family doctor around mid-December, she diagnosed a bronchial infection and prescribed a lethal-looking dosage of antibiotics. I took them as prescribed. The dosage helped some, but it did not entirely clear my bronchial passage; I coughed, without dispelling any fluids, through Christmas and New Year. Sometime around mid-January, I could breathe again, the cough was gone, and I was into 2020, as they say, the year of clearer vision.

When my symptoms began to clear, my family attended a local memorial service for a friend of my son. The friend lived in California. In late October, the friend had an uncontrollable cough that would not go away.

Doctors were not sure what caused his symptoms. He was hospitalized several times in November and December but never seemed to get better. During a December hospitalization, he received news that his condition had improved so he would soon get to go home from the hospital. Suddenly taking a turn for the worst, he transitioned on Christmas Eve, his 35th birthday, and six months before a planned 2020 wedding.

“And for long, long ago, my dear For long, long ago. We’ll take a cup of kindness yet For long, long ago. And surely, you’ll buy your pint-jug! And surely, I’ll buy mine! And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet For long, long ago.”

Following his death, doctors reported the young man, in the full of his youth, had lung cancer that had gone undetected, perhaps, but perhaps not.

Was it COVID-19 mystifying doctors in the early days of the release of the virus? We will never know. What I realized is whatever I had; I had never felt that way before with any flu illness throughout my life.

This year, which many looked forward to in the belief 2020 would bring their future into more precise focus, turns out to be the year of transition. The year that men and women, young and old, full of strength, clear vision, and a servant’s heart bid us fair well and returned to that pure energy of a long time ago.

“We two have run about the hills And pulled the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many the weary foot Since long, long ago.”

In times of such alarming political discord, fearmongering, and an unseen parasite that attacks the most vulnerable among us, it seems, our most brilliant minds, caring hearts, and powerful flames are getting out of the daily fray of life on planet earth.

What in the world is going on?

I’ve asked this question often throughout this year, and no doubt, many others have too. Nine and a half months into 2020, and I am no closer to an answer than anyone else who has contemplated this conundrum.

In times of great challenge, why have so many good people left us? Why are we left here to solve the problem of the 21st century?

“We two have paddled in the stream, From morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared Since long, long ago.”

Men and women from across the globe have transitioned this year, some from COVID-19, some from natural causes, and some due to bad cops. According to Wikipedia, over 800 in January alone, from Hungarian-Canadian Mathematician Janos Aczel to basketball players Kobe Bryant and a young man I mentored after school on the playground at Eugenia Hamilton Elementary School in Macon, Georgia, basketballer Terry Fair.

In my neighborhood in Atlanta, three stalwarts of the civil rights movement departed within three months of each other, Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, Dr. C. T. Vivian, and Congressman John Lewis. These men possessed a wealth of knowledge about days that we should never forget. On the last day of Summer 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a relentless fighter for women rights, has given up the holy ghost.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend! And give us a hand of yours! And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will For long, long ago.

Of one thing I have learned on my journey in this physical reality when great seeds fall into the earth, there is a rebirth liken unto their kind. On January 30, we traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, to say goodbye to the mother of my wife’s college roommate. It was a sad occasion. In mid-August, her granddaughter gave birth to a healthy baby girl and named her after her great grandmother… And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet For long, long ago.”

Auld Lang Syne, my friends, this year too shall pass.

Harold Michael Harvey is the Living Now 2020 Bronze Medal winner in the category of male memoir for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. An avid public speaker, contact him at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com.