Unprecedented: adjective

“never done or known before.”

The landscape looks different depending on where you stand. This is applicable in wrestling with a vacation destination and equally so when contending with the truth from an event in our past..

I am struck by the extreme vantage points as I read the opinions of close friends, acquaintances, people from my past and present. There’s a militant strength on both sides. “Take this seriously,” shout some of you. “Make the media stop freaking us out! It’s just the flu,” others scream. Then there are those dancing somewhere in the middle posting memes about beer and toilet paper, giving us a chance to smile and breathe if only for a split second.

The master bedroom of our house is on the third floor and our house sits atop a hill overlooking South London. We stand at our window in the early morning and look down on rooftops, tendrils of steam rise into the cold London air, like flags rising on masts to furl in the wind and declare life below. On our way to bed, we look out our window and a sea of millions of colorful lights twinkle in the distance like fairies watching over the masses. Skyscrapers become the stuff of puzzles. The lyrics of Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance” find a home in reality.

From our third floor rooftop view, the world looks normal. All is as it should be. Reality is setting the alarm to get up for work. Scheduling a trip to the theatre next weekend. Making dinner reservations at our favorite Turkish restaurant down the street. Only two floors down, the view changes drastically. On the first floor, images flash on the news and words from solemn strangers paint a far different picture. Most recently, a story of a neighborhood in Italy, the inhabitants have been forced to stay in their homes under a government lockdown. Can we even imagine? And yet, they have been heard singing, blending their voices and instruments into the streets below. Uniting through music and keeping them together as their economy, plans, maybe even dreams shatter around them.

I wonder if this whispers of a previous time. Never before have I known anyone to have to cancel a memorial service for their 45 year old husband who has died suddenly out of a conscious decision not to put anyone at risk. March 16th’s memorial for Dave has been cancelled. There was a wedding in three weeks, now postponed indefinitely. The bride saddened, mourning a day that was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.

I was speaking with a colleague yesterday (the UK hasn’t suspended school yet) and she used the word “unprecedented.” It definitely feels like that. Unchartered waters. High school sports suspended. Schools around the world canceled regardless of weather conditions. And yet, history whispers of moments when such chaos and confusion have altered lives, stories, and families. It is a rare moment to meet a survivor of global tragedy. Perhaps for that reason, we steel our hearts and our determination.

It would be much easier to stay on the third floor with the expansive view of a silent sparkling civilization. Of calm and peace and rationality. Much easier. And although even my parents cannot recall a time when food and goods were rationed, such living conditions are not entirely unprecedented. History is awash with stories across the globe of opportunities missed. When tragedy has struck and the thin vein of humanity went into hiding. In this current unprecedented moment, we have opportunity again.

I hope and pray we allow ourselves the space for our opinions to change. I hope and pray that if things do change, we transfer our strength of opinion into strength of community and remember, unprecedented or not, and like it or not, life is only lived out on the bottom floor.

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8 Comments on "Unprecedented: adjective"

  1. Lin Wilder
    14/03/2020 at 5:13 am Permalink

    Actually my friend…I think you had it right in the 3rd paragraph. All too many of us live out our lives in the basement of a 3 story house-

    But I must ask…
    “A 45 yr old husband who has died suddenly out of a conscious decision not to put anyone at risk” is this a politically correct way of saying this guy killed himself because he has the virus?

  2. Rebecca Qualls
    14/03/2020 at 5:48 am Permalink

    He did not commit suicide. He was a firefighter and they cancelled the service as many of the attendees would be first responders and possibly people who have been exposed to the virus.

  3. miriam sarzotti
    14/03/2020 at 6:31 am Permalink

    HI Rebecca!

    Loved reading your post. So beautifully said. I have been sick with a cold virus for 10 days and had to be screened twice at Stanford with a negative results, thank God! It has been scary watching Trader Joes be emptied of all its shelves, no toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc. But little blessings abound. Empty sidewalks and stores reminds me of the sleepy middle-class towns San Carlos and Belmont used to be growing up. No line at Peet’s! French butter from Brittany left behind by the horders. Knowing He will keeps us alive in famine and though thousands fall at our sides, it will not come near us, He will order his angels to watch over us. Amen. Cheerio!

  4. Rebecca Qualls
    14/03/2020 at 1:50 pm Permalink

    Thank you, Miriam. Praying for health!

  5. Carly chichester
    14/03/2020 at 12:27 pm Permalink

    Beautifully said! I am on the side of “Shut down the media nattering,” and I continue mulling the question, “what is REALLY going on here?” Stuff of conspiracies, and my mind is weaving a tapestry of any number of underlying reasons for this manufactured, (as I believe it to be!), hysteria. Toilet paper shortages aside, our economy is heading for a well planned collapse. I can only surmise who the master planners and their co-conspirators are, but this IS an election year!!

  6. Rebecca Qualls
    14/03/2020 at 1:52 pm Permalink

    It is a wild ride. But the images of families in Italy standing on their balconies banging pots and singing is indelible. Cause or potential cause aside, it is the largest quarantine in recorded history. Something is happening and I think it says volumes that we cannot explain it easily away.

  7. Cathy Pagano
    14/03/2020 at 3:34 pm Permalink

    Hi Rebecca,
    It is so good to hear from you , I so enjoy what you write. I have been thinking of you guys and wondering how you were doing.

    We do have toilet paper!!! No sanitizer though. I have found that I have talked to my kids and grandkids more since every sport, school, extra activities they do are all closed. There is a good side to this.

    When we had our electricity shut off awhile ago, we had our older grandkids with us and we had such fun. We did things with them we hadn’t done in awhile. It was a Godsend and I thanked him for it.

    If we have lemons, we WILL make lemonade.
    So I say enjoy the change and enjoy family and friends more.

    Love you guys.

  8. Rebecca Qualls
    30/03/2020 at 1:35 am Permalink

    Hi Cathy! Great to hear from you too! We are all good. I bought lemons the other day and made lemon pancakes. (An alternative to lemonade!) 🙂 Hope you and Craig are well! Love you too!

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