Judging by the comments I have heard lately from friends and family, year 2021 has a tall order to fill in bringing good news, and it appears that any bad event will set off fear that the year will be worse than 2020. The truth is, in any year natural disasters occur, people die, and accidents happen. Take year 2008 for example.

That year the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak killed 58 in one of the deadliest outbreaks on record; the stock markets tanked, generating a worldwide financial crisis; Las Vegas had a $100 million fire at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino; a fire at Universal Studies in California burned half a million master tapes of music; multiple school systems and workplaces across the nation suffered random shootings; Hurricanes Gustav, Hannah, and Ike caused billions in damage; a Metrolink train hit a freight train head-on, killing 25 and injuring 130; and to top off the year, Bruce Pardo in Covina, California, massacred nine people at a Christmas Eve party and then burned the house. Those are only a few highlights of hellacious 2008 — certainly no picnic!

Even so, this pandemic makes any additional hardship beyond the disease feel much, much worse to us. The lens of anxiety magnifies fears and sends us shuddering at the mention of one more awful thing. And this pandemic is still rolling.

By now most people personally know someone who has contracted the COVID-19 virus, given the disease is now the most widespread since its beginnings. I am not blaming 2020, but we had ourselves a COVID little Christmas, with my husband being pulled away on Christmas Eve to help his mother when her family caregivers came down with the virus. That series of events was a textbook example of how the virus can spread.

Now listen to me. If a family member starts talking about feeling a little under the weather and fatigued, maybe allergies, maybe a common cold, not worth complaining about, encourage that person to get tested and avoid mixing with family members until the results arrive. Most of the time COVID-19 does not knock a person down immediately, and for most people the symptoms are not life-threatening, or the person may have no symptoms at all. However, no one I know wants to win the virus lottery to be one of the severely affected.

At this writing, Caldwell County had 77 COVID-19 fatalities, not to mention the ongoing struggles of hundreds of people with lasting effects of the virus. Do not ignore mild symptoms if other family members are to be protected.

In our situation, right before Christmas, one family member “under the weather” unknowingly shared the virus with his wife, who then carried the virus to her sister and brother-in-law and her mother in another town. Every one of them had very awful cases, and one was hospitalized. My husband took care of his mother (not knowing at the time that she had the virus) at the family homeplace while the other family members were recuperating. After he returned his mother to his sister’s home, he quarantined himself until he got a negative test. It is amazing that he did not contract the virus. Someone needs to study his blood.

So far everyone is surviving, including the 95-year-old mother. We are grateful for such a good outcome but remain vigilant to keep other friends and family members as healthy as possible. If the virus hits again, I hope it is not because we were careless. A dear friend’s family had a similar Christmas gathering outbreak.

So, we journey on into 2021 accepting the good and the bad, the acts of God and acts of people that will inevitably happen. I hope to focus more on the good, like the oak tree in the back yard that has dormant leaf buds just waiting to open in a few weeks. This winter season will give way to spring, in matters of calendar and the concerns of our hearts.