Late last month, my cellphone buzzed with a text from my mom. She had sent a picture of her "I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and said my dad got his, too. I was working on deadline, but paused, surprised by the emotions the sticker had stirred inside me.
I've been covering COVID-19 for close to a year now, sharing your views and advice on how to deliver safe patient care during a pandemic that won't quit. Your stories are powerful and important, but not personal. My mom's message hit home and made me realize the vaccine is more than a stick in the arm. It's a shot at a return to normal life.
My mom is relieved to have received her first dose, and said she's "a little less sad" now that she's one step closer to seeing her children again and hugging her grandkids without fear.
A little less sad.
That broke my heart.
Every person and family has handled the pandemic differently. My crew errs on the side of caution. We've maintained social distances and keep an impressive collection of masks in a box by the front door. We spent Thanksgiving alone. Christmas, too. Zoom calls kept us connected with loved ones, but prevented us from connecting.
I'd forgotten much of what I was missing in my life — watching my mom cook bacon for my kids, sipping a martini with my dad — because those simple pleasures that we'll never again take for granted felt so far out of reach. I knew the pandemic would someday end, but didn't allow myself to truly think about what it would be like when it did.
That all changed with the text. I'm still several months away from receiving my own first dose, but now two people I love dearly are one step closer to emerging from the pandemic. The what-ifs and whens were erased in a second when I saw the sticker.
My mom's message arrived as I was writing about Sandra Lindsay, RN, the nurse on the cover who received national acclaim for being the first person in the U.S. to get vaccinated. Minutes after receiving her initial dose, she said, "I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history."
It shouldn't come as a surprise that another nurse helped the nation begin to heal. Last month, Lori Marie Key sang Amazing Grace against the backdrop of 400 lanterns lining the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in honor of the more than 400,000 lives lost so far to the coronavirus. It was a beautiful and powerful moment, one she hoped would help lift the nation's spirits as we face these tough times together.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my fourth-grade son was asked to pick a famous Dr. King quote and write down what it meant to him. He hung his handwritten response on our refrigerator: "Only when times are darkest can good shine brightest of all."
We've endured the pandemic's burdens for close to a year now and more dark months lie ahead, but the vaccines have sparked a flicker of hope among so many of us who can't wait to show off our own stickers. OSM