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Samantha Jones

Sam's Notebook

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.

Opinion

Renewed hope for new year

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

From the looks of it, we were all excited to leave 2020 behind us last week. Iíve heard so many people saying that they are looking forward to a new year ó a year that hopefully wonít resemble 2020 too closely. After all, 2020 has to be one of the strangest years on record.

In just nine months, we saw the world around us change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gideon and I havenít gone to a movie theater, dined at a restaurant or seen many loved ones since last February. Like lots of you, we are diligent about stopping the spread of the virus by wearing face coverings in public, keeping the distance from others at all times and not going anywhere besides the grocery store.

Then thereís the whole presidential election debacle, which somehow continues to develop even as President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20. Biden was named the winner of the election on Nov. 7, but President Donald Trump refuses to take part in the peaceful transfer of power. In fact, Trump refuses to accept defeat at all. Itís still unclear if heíll have to be forcibly removed from the White House after Bidenís inauguration.

Those two events combined make for a crazy year, and the loss of so many loved ones to COVID-19 is just the cherry on top. Over the last two months of 2020, Gideon and I lost family friends who will always be dear to us. Those losses reminded me how much cancer sucks, and it helped me understand what itís like to lose a loved one during a pandemic.

You canít have a celebration of life, at least not the way you normally would. Funerals are grim, but they are the key toward finding closure over the loss of a loved one. Thereís something so comforting about getting together with all your loved ones and sharing the kind of memories that make you laugh and cry, often at the same time. You can all mourn together and kick off the horrible process of grief.

But there werenít very many funerals in 2020. If you lost a loved one, Iíd bet that you didnít gather with the whole family to say goodbye. Maybe you scheduled a video call where one or two people kept losing audio the whole time. Maybe you laid your loved one into the ground, but you werenít physically surrounded by a support system.

Those of us who have experienced the raw feelings of grief know that continuing to connect with people is the only way to dig yourself out. When our only option to stay safe is to distance ourselves from one another, tough times get even tougher.

Iíve seen lots of folks say they are ready to start a new year, and sometimes I wonder if they thought the pandemic was going to erase itself at midnight Jan. 1. Hereís a grim reminder: The pandemic will stick around as long as people donít follow safety protocol, and especially if people refuse to take the vaccine.

Iím not saying that 2021 is going to be the same as 2020. It will certainly be better or worse, and you know who determines which one it is? You do. I do. Your coworkers do. Your neighbors do. We all have a responsibility to protect one another, something I hope many of you have put at the very top of your new yearís resolution list.

Yes, the pandemic has changed how we live. Yes, our political landscape is less than ideal. When I was really upset about something trivial a few years back, a friend told me to only focus on the things you can change. So what can we change?

We can follow all safety precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. We can find ways to connect with our fellow Americans while physically distancing. And most importantly, we can always search for what we have in common with our neighbors ó especially if we donít agree on much anything. We have been given the gift of a new year, a blank slate if you will. My deepest hope for the new year is that we can all find a way to come together, even if that means facing some hard truths about ourselves and making uncomfortable changes.