Beyond Gratitude

“Hope has never trickled down, it has always sprung up.”
~Naomi Klein     

I have a strong urge to kneel and kiss the floor right here in CVS . Or maybe to prostrate myself facing the pharmacy. I am weak with gratitude for the vaccine I just received.

Its development is a near-miracle which began with variolation techniques used to ward off smallpox as practiced by Turkish women back in the early 1700s, or earlier by healers in southern Africa, or perhaps as far back as 1000 AD in India and China. The miracles continue today thanks to researchers who brought us the first-ever mRNA-based vaccines in record time (researchers of many nationalities and immigration statuses).    

It took weeks of calls and clicks to schedule this appointment. Now I feel disoriented.  I haven’t been in a store for nearly a year. So much stimulus — doors that open to let me in, shelves with products, actual shoppers! When I sit down with the nurse to get my inoculation I have to stop myself from using the word “grateful” in every sentence.

Grateful isn’t large enough to express this feeling. I’m not aware of a term that can fully encompass the year all of us have been through. A word that includes our isolation and fear, our efforts to pull through and pull together while apart. A word that acknowledges all the ways we’ve been divided. A word that doesn’t forget a leader who, according to experts, could have averted forty percent of Covid-19 deaths in the U.S.  A word that incorporates fear, grief, exhaustion, fury, longing, despair, hope, uncertainty, and so much more.

I wait the required 15 minutes before I can leave. I watch others who are also waiting. They look at their phones or listen to the nurse talk about potential side effects. Every person here looks beautiful to me. Already I imagine our antibodies responding to this shot, better protecting the trillions of cells that make it possible for us to breathe, smile, crack awful jokes, hug, sleep, dream.    

As I walk to my car I recognize the heaviness in my chest as the weight of guilt for getting the shot before anyone anywhere who might need it more than I do. Still, I sit in the driver’s seat, tears welling in my eyes, and whisper thank you thank you thank you. Then I turn the music up louder than I should, start the car, and drive home.

11 thoughts on “Beyond Gratitude

  1. On behalf of the rest of us: You’re welcome! 🙂 ❤
    We all 'deserve' this, and when I get mine (thank you, Italy, for the delay), I too will be very, very grateful. I'm grateful now that our leaders took a different line, which means that our total national death toll is *still* less than your daily death toll. I'm not gloating about this, I'm just profoundly grateful.
    Stay well, may your antibodies be strong and your side effects negligible. Rejoice and welcome the world back into your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just getting to schedule my first vaccination a month ago released such a flood of emotion, a lifting of a burden, a weight I had not realized was so heavy until that moment. Everyone who receives this shot is contributing to our collective well-being. Thank you, Laura., for your contribution. My husband and I will receive our second shots on St Patrick’s Day. Looking toward a hopeful, not-so-faraway future of grandchildren hugs and sibling visits. I am 71 years old and though I try not to think about it, I feel this lost year was a lifetime. I am most grateful that I am still here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It feels like an avalanche of emotion doesn’t it? Maybe a hint of how hard we braced this whole last year. I hope what feels like a lost year to you will reveal some quiet gifts from all those months of isolation.


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