Okay. I admit it. I’m obsessed with COVID-19 hysteria. On any given day, I normally tune into cable news, mostly to follow national politics. Now, the pandemic is the news. The stories of fear and anxiety caused by instability are especially interesting. On a very personal level, there’s a reason why this global news story is compelling.
First, COVID is a respiratory virus that attacks the lungs. That hits close to home. During the horrific summer of 2010, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome attacked my lungs due to a complication from cardiac arrest. I needed mechanical ventilation for nearly 6 weeks. Images on the news of people on ventilators with breathing tubes inserted into their mouths bring back uncomfortable memories of that time.
In 2018, during heart pump surgery, my lungs again decided to be uncooperative. I was connected to a ventilator for 5 days at that time. My family anxiously camped out in the waiting room until the lungs cleared. The pain I see in the faces of sick patients’ families on TV reminds me of what my family must have endured twice over the course of 10 years.
Second, for those who survive ventilation in the ICU, recovery will seem almost impossible. That was the hardest part for me. They will surely experience a condition called ICU Delirium. It’s caused by sedative medicine and being cooped up in the ICU. As the medication wears off, the mind plays tricks on patients. Weird and sometimes scary hallucinations create confusion and fear.
I’ve written about this experience in past posts (for example, see https://esereport.com/2016/11/02/summer-in-the-waiting-room-how-faith-family-and-friends-saved-my-life-excerpt-65/).
Third, the health crisis I survived helped me develop tools to weather storms of uncertainty. I hope to share these ideas with readers who feel like they have no control over the growing pandemic. These tools can also help with other seemingly hopeless situations life puts in our paths. I’ve become a big fan of the Buddha and ancient Stoics like Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. Do yourself a favor and Google them.
They all have pretty much the same message about suffering. No one is immune to it. There are things that are unexplainable and just out of our control. To get through tough times, they advise us to stop trying to manage what we can’t control. It sounds easy, right? Like my mom used to say, “it’s easier said than done.”
Perhaps, my biggest influence is St. Paul the Apostle. His letters on the meaning of Jesus’ teachings and ministry are still relevant nearly 2,000 years after he wrote them. The core message is in his First Letter to the Corinthians. To endure suffering, he said, “three things remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.”
I’ve written much about faith and hope. Faith is accepting that which we can’t control. Hope is being certain that God will determine the outcome of an uncontrollable situation. To understand how love fits into that equation, I turned to the great 20th-century Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis. I found answers in his book, The Four Loves, published in 1960.
Lewis describes 4 types of love: Affection, Friendship, Eros (romantic love), and Charity (God’s love). In my last post, I shared about how Affection played a role in my post-health crisis spiritual journey (https://esereport.com/2020/03/31/my-first-love/). Friendship has also impacted my spiritual, emotional, and mental healing after both bouts with extreme respiratory problems.
In its purest form, friendship is “the happiest and most fully human of all the loves,” according to Lewis. He believed that Friendship is a special bond that’s held together by mutual interests, similar worldviews, and common experiences not related to procreation or sustaining life. He wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
Friendship, as defined by Lewis, has played a significant role in my life story and spiritual journey. Paraphrasing the author, my close friends weren’t necessary for me to survive a heart attack in 2010, but they’ve given value to the rest of my life. One such person who comes to mind is a friend named Rudy.
We met in the 7th grade playing baseball and basketball at lunchtime while in middle school. Our early friendship is a classic coming-of-age story. I was a bookworm, the ”schoolboy” among our group of friends. We both played on the high school baseball and basketball teams. While carousing around town as young men, got ourselves into and out of many sticky situations.
Later in life, Rudy connected with his spiritual inner-self by turning to God and the church as I worked tirelessly trying to create my own destiny. My professional aspirations came crashing down after spending the summer of 2010 in the hospital. Seeing Rudy’s boyish round cheeks and happy smile was one of my first memories when I emerged from the fog of an induced coma.
Sandra later told me that he visited me nearly every one of the 100+ days I had been in the hospital. In between visits to my bedside, he made the waiting room howl with laughter retelling stories of our youthful shenanigans. He also led evening prayers before heading home for the night. For 5 days in November 2018, he played the same role.
For nearly a decade, I’ve wandered through books learning about faith, hope, and love. What I’ve seen along the way has been eye-opening. Rudy’s heartfelt belief has shown me how it looks in real life. The journey began because of my mom’s love and encouragement to trust God. It continues in part because of my friend’s love and infectious belief in God’s grace.
So what does friendship have to do with COVID-19, especially when we can’t gather as friends? It reminds us that true friends bonded by mutual interests, similar worldviews, and common experiences bring value to our lives. As C.S Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, “friendship is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
We will survive the current crisis. God and the universe will make everything okay. Maintaining social distance is critical. Healthcare professionals will be there to help those of us who get sick. Even though friendship won’t directly keep us alive, when it’s all said and done, it will play a meaningful and loving role in our survival.