Reminiscing grandmother during days of coronavirus
If there is something that is common to a big number of people right now is fear. Fear is always there, of course, and it is part of our existence. But usually, fear is accompanied by the object of fear. “I am afraid of…” The more specific the object of our fear, the more we could rationalize and gather strength to combat it. The less specific it is, the more difficult it becomes for us to organize ourselves to fight it.
For example, my grandmother was very practical about it. She was always religious, attending mass when she should and when her neighbors would see that she did. As a widow for over forty years, with two living children of the three that she brought to the world, she had to care for her social integrity as well as fending for her family. So, for most of her life, her relationship with God, death, afterlife, and all the rest, was more let us say, practical. She attended all the rites she had to, lit candles for her lost third child who died at the age of five of meningitis, for her husband and her in-laws. She fasted throughout the 40 days of Lent before the Orthodox Easter and never missed weddings, baptisms and funerals.
When she stepped into her 80s, she became more philosophical. Having attended only the first three years in a primary school, her reading capacity was limited. Yet, like all women of her age in their 80s, they know the New Testament almost by heart and there is nothing more that they need. The rest of her intellectual needs was fulfilled by her enormous capacity to recite rhyming proverbs and fairy tales full of poetic imagery and philosophical perceptions. It was during that period, the last decade of her life when she took death seriously. I mean as a logical possibility. And she devised a daily method of dealing with it, a method which was connected with the time factor. So, she started a ritual of daily prayers of thanks that she would do twice a day - one after waking up every morning to thank God for she is alive, and the second before she went to bed for having lived one more day. Even at her very end, she kept at least part of this ritual alive although her brain had already abandoned her.
Why did I think of her? Obviously, because of our current relationship with the fear of COVID-19, a constant underlying fear of being the next victim of this creature, which looks like a surreal colorful sea urchin, and can choose any of us at any moment to put an end to our life. And it is not a real fear that we feel. It is also not a deep feeling of the unavoidable human fate like the one that my grandmother felt and tried to exorcize through her daily prayers of thanks.
The worst is that we are not even afraid of being the next victim; we are in that middle-of-the-road situation where we cannot organize our psychology. We have become desensitized to it but are sure of our self-importance and immortality in this world, unlike my grandmother, who thought that every extra day in her life was a gift.