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The days before and after

The day before my grandpa died, I had a minor medical procedure that required two complete strangers to look at my bare bottom.

The day before my great-grandpa died, eight weeks later, I cried through Little Women and took a walk on the beach. It was New Year’s Day.

Jacksonville Beach on Jan. 1, 2020

I think often about those days, wishing I could go back. I watched Little Women again last week and tried to remember what it felt like to live in a world in which my great-grandfather was still alive.

Now, more than a month into our quarantined life, I think back to when this all started. People probably consider different days as the starting point. Some may think it started when the NBA season was suspended, or when the NCAA basketball tournaments were canceled. Others may think of the first confirmed case in Kentucky, when Gov. Andy Beshear gave the first of many press conferences.

For me, I think of the start as March 13, the day that I drove home from Lexington to my parents’ house in Bowling Green. I was supposed to be in New York City for spring break, but I had canceled my trip earlier that week.

The day before March 13, I bought my cap and gown at Grad Salute. UK administrators had already made the announcement that classes would be online for two weeks after spring break, so I knew there was some doubt that commencement would even happen. But I bought my cap and gown anyway because I’m a senior and my mom had reminded me about Grad Salute every day that week. I bought a commemorative tassel, too, because I was excited and already feeling a little sentimental.

It seems that every day brings more bad news, which is why I so often long for the days before. If we could go back, before thousands died and millions lost their jobs, wouldn’t we? If I could go back to a world with my Pop and Papa, who mercifully are not living through the health problems and worries that COVID-19 would likely bring them, I would in a heartbeat.

Back in November, when I told my friend Sally that my grandfather had died, she texted me that she was sorry and that my family was in her prayers.

Then she said, “I’m sure today was hard, but you won’t have to do it again. Tomorrow will be hard too, but after it’s over, you won’t have to do it again either.”

Perhaps that’s when I started thinking of suffering in terms of days, with a day before and a day after and morning and afternoon and night. It was good advice, to focus on making it through 24 hours at a time. It’s good advice now, even when each day feels like it holds more hours than 24.

The day after my grandpa died, I watched my brother play basketball and went to a concert to celebrate my birthday (which was the next day). Yes, I cried during both, but those are things that bring me happiness, too.

The day after my great-grandpa died, I laid on the beach with my sisters, mom and grandma. I cried when I refreshed the funeral home’s page and saw his obituary, but I smiled remembering the times I had sat on that very beach with him.

Now I look forward to the day after this, after quarantine ends. I know, because we will have to ease into it, that there will likely not be one single day that we can consider to be the day after the end.

But I still look forward to what I might be able to do on that day. I might watch three movies in a row in the theater. I might sit in a coffee shop and write. I might eat 10 baskets of chips and salsa at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

I might cry, too, for the lives and livelihoods lost. I might cry for the pain that we as a nation and a world have gone through.

But I will smile because it will be the day after, and there will be another day after that.


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