Weeks ago, I started receiving press releases every day that listed new COVID-19 cases in Camden County. At some point, deaths were added. The list went like this: Case #, gender, age, town. They came every afternoon, one day after the next. Some days I scrolled past the email. I just didn’t want to see the pain.

Then on Facebook, a friend posted one of the lists. And she said, “My mom is Case #18.”

On those days when I didn’t open the email, it was because I was aware of what each case represented. But not really. I didn’t truly understand until I could suddenly connect a name to a case, until I realized that someone I knew was suffering deeply because of who was on that list. I texted my friend right away and she said, “I can’t sleep knowing she’s a few miles down the road, her body expiring, and I can’t be with her.”

Soon after, Gov. Murphy started tweeting about New Jersey residents who had died from the virus. One by one, he showed a photo and briefly described the simple impact that person had made. It was a kind gesture to have us all take a minute to read about someone most of us didn’t know, but whose life ended much sooner than expected.

As the weeks went on, more people were diagnosed. More people died, and more people recovered. We were all in this crazy movie where the streets were barren, and everyone was wearing masks in the supermarket. To top it off, the sun rarely came out.

Right about this paragraph is where I would have the dramatic turn of events: Things get better. Everyone feels happy. And would you believe it, a record number of sunny days.

But you know as much as I do, that hasn’t happened.

I kept getting those press releases every day. The Gov. kept tweeting, although he did add people who survived. We stayed in our houses, kept wearing masks to go out. Continued to comment on how often it rained and wondered how this movie ends.

The bright side was covered in so much darkness, you couldn’t see it. Or at least, if I did have any glimmering moments of positivity, I quickly remembered the suffering.

I was aware of how nice it was that my family was playing games together. At a time when I wouldn’t have my 3 kids here, 2 were home. That’s a treasure. But it seemed wrong to treasure this time when every day, that email would show up in my inbox.

Then I started doing video interviews for our Facebook page, and I spoke with Jon Dorenbos. You might know him as the incredible magician from “America’s Got Talent” or “Ellen,” and you might also remember him as a former Eagle. I wanted to talk to Jon because I knew he was exactly who we needed to hear from – maybe I should say, who I needed to hear from.

Jon’s father killed his mother when Jon was 12. His father went to prison, and Jon and his sister were in foster care before going to live with an aunt. Jon knows deep pain, deep despair. But he also knows great success and great happiness. His story is inspirational, and he often shares it.

I laughed when he told me he was made for quarantine. He talked about all he and his wife and new baby had been doing: de-cluttering, taking long rides and simply enjoying each other’s company at a time when they wouldn’t normally be together. He also described a life-changing lunch he had with his father last year, where he was able to forgive him right before becoming a father himself.

As he finished talking about that conversation with his father, he said: “If we can pull motivation from the worst things that happen to us, and find a way to come out, we can make the world a better place.”

And there it was. The bright side.

When simple joys are present in my life, I shouldn’t miss them, even when I’m aware pain also exists. That is how happiness stays around. We recognize the bright side and point it out to everyone. We respect the pain, but try to share any light we can. It’s the only way to see the sunshine. You have to let it in.

You can see my video interview with Jon Dorenbos here.

Read more Wide Awake here.

May 2020
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