During my childhood, and throughout the years, friendships, relationships, were daily essentials. We had fun riding bikes, playing kickball and hanging out with my dog Blackie.

Blackie was my 15-year-old loyal companion. One stormy night, on his ritual bedtime trip outside, my still-haunted memory was his long stare back at me, which would be our last moment together before his tragic life ended.

Four years of high school and sports were highlights that kept me motivated. My last basketball game, walking off the gym floor while fans were standing and clapping, felt so final. It was tough to think of leaving my classmates, and fun times, with graduation approaching.

That big sigh of relief after finishing my last college final in kinesiology felt liberating, and I was excited to receive my diploma. My vivid memory after graduation, driving away in my fully packed Datsun hatchback, heading to southern Maine, left me torn.

Leaving home and my parents, with a visual of my mother standing teary-eyed in the driveway, waving goodbye and empty nest syndrome setting in, was painful. Fortunately, both my parents were loving, and though letting go was hard, they supported my growth and happiness. I never realized the life-changing loss I would feel, until regular visits over the years, with Mom’s cooking, caring, comforting efforts, deeply missed. Family, friendships, matter and bring me a sense of security, safety, stability; in addition, they help me thrive through connection.

This devastating struggle with the COVID-19 virus is causing extreme stress and anxiety for all of us. I consider myself an “in the present” kind of person, and during this powerful, destructive pandemic, it feels an even bigger wake-up call, for reflection and adaptation. Isolation can be lonely and depressing; however, fortunately for me, it has inspired my creative pleasures for writing, exercising and cooking. It feels rewarding with simple efforts, helping seniors, phone calls, smiles, window heart signs – little gestures, but impactful.

Maintaining a sense of humor was a constant in my family, and sending funny cards, photos, maintained some positive comfort. The elevated opportunities in social media, like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime, have allowed me to stay connected and entertained. Our new normalcy has changed forever, and I will never look at toilet paper the same. However, with hope and people working together while apart, we will survive this horrible challenge.

There have been many emotional, grueling life last times; though on a positive note, finding a vaccine and cure for this exhausting, torturous COVID-19 predator will be a much-welcomed and thankful goodbye, and we can only hope, it will strike for the last time.

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