This is not a post I planned to write. Sometimes spirit moves me and I feel energy flow through my fingers and I know I need to write my thoughts down. I wish it would happen more often, on demand, at convenient times and not at 1 a.m. when I really should be sleeping. Writing is how I process information. So last night when I couldn’t sleep I typed out this post on my phone. I hesitated about whether to post it here. It doesn’t match my usual content. Then my son reminded me that my blog is whatever I want it to be. So today I’m sharing a deeper message than usual.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”
I celebrated a birthday yesterday. Later on that evening I heard some sad news and learned a very important lesson about the privilege of gaining another year. I had a great day soaking up the Florida sunshine with my family. We went to dinner and enjoyed a very rare night out. On our drive home we were stopped at a traffic light on the main drag of downtown that is lined with bars and restaurants. The beat of the music coming from a restaurant to my right caught my attention. I turned my head and took a closer look inside. There were people singing and dancing in the restaurant. I rolled down my window. I recognized the song, it was Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. A conga line had formed around the bar inside the restaurant. The patrons were lined up shoulder to shoulder singing and swaying to the music. I lit up inside. There was a party going on. It looked like fun. There was joy in the air. I turned my attention to my family in the car with me and pointed out the revelry taking place.
“Oh my god, look you guys, those people are having fun! Do you remember what that’s like?”
I wanted to go in. Park the car, I thought. Let’s go in. Did I say that out loud or was I just thinking it? I can’t recall. I turned to my husband sitting in the driver’s seat beside me.
“That looks fun, can we go in there?”
He bluntly answered my question. “Those people are gonna get corona.”
Deflated. I’m embarrassed now to admit the words I spoke next but I’ll be truthful.
“Maybe. And maybe we’d get it. But then we’d be fine. Right? Then we could just go on with our lives. This whole corona thing is so stupid. I want to have fun again.”
The devil over my shoulder had spoken. The angel in the seat beside me reminded me that the kids would probably be fine but he and I would probably get sick and die of Covid. Would we? Was it worth the gamble? What were the odds?
My older son in the backseat spoke up. “Mom, you’re all over the place. You’re usually such a Karen. You’re always telling us to wear a mask. Wash our hands. And now you want to go to a place where no one’s wearing a mask.” I could sense his glee at calling me out on my hypocrisy.
The light changed and we continued on through the intersection. We left the party behind. It was my birthday. I wanted to sing and dance to “beat it” inside a crowded bar. I pouted and sat back into my seat resigned that none of that was going to happen on this night.
The universe is talking to you. Through everything around you.
As we pulled into our parking spot back at our condo, I glanced down at the phone in my hand that just lit up. The new message flashed on the screen. I swiped up and read the headline of the news article a friend had texted: “Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow has died of Covid.” My heart sank into the pit of my stomach.
Luke was a colleague from my younger days when I had a career on Capitol Hill. Back when I worked in a tiny little office that did big things for the people of Louisiana. We worked for an upstart young congressman who was full of ambition and promise. I met Luke on my fly-back interview in New Orleans. He would be the District Director. This was a young staff. I was 31 and pregnant with my first child so I felt a lot older than most of the rest of the staff and Luke was certainly one of the younger ones. He was full of Southern gravitas. He had an effortless smile. He was hard-working and smart. He was good with people. He never strayed far from his small-town Louisiana roots. He legit drove a pickup truck. You could never catch that kid without a pair of cowboy boots on! He represented a way of life that I wasn’t used to seeing in buttoned-up Washington, D.C.
We worked tirelessly for our boss for three years. Our lives took us down different roads. We became merely “Facebook friends”. I’ll be honest, I didn’t follow Luke or his career much until earlier this year. Then one day Facebook showed me his announcement that he was running for Congress. I thought how funny that this kid who once seemed so young might become the upstart young congressman himself. I checked in on him in November after the election. He had made it into a runoff for the soon-to-be vacant House seat. I was delighted when I saw the news on December 5th that he won the election. He would represent his district in Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many dream of being elected to political office. The odds of getting elected are so small but he had done it!
A couple weeks later I saw a headline that Luke had contracted Covid-19 and was being treated in a hospital. Luke remained active on his Facebook page so I didn’t think much of it. He was young. Like many other young people I figured he would recover. He was a United States Congressman now — I knew he would receive the best care possible. Then came the news article that he had been moved to Ochsner which I knew to be one of the best hospitals in Louisiana. The news gave me pause — this could be serious.
You know how this story ends. Luke was only 41 years old when he died yesterday. He’s younger than me. He was a husband. He was a father. He was a best friend. He was a man of faith. The world was at his fingertips. His future full of promise. He was a newly elected congressman from Louisiana with potential, like his predecessors, to springboard to so much more.
I haven’t spoken to Luke in 12 years. He was a friend for a season and a reason as they say. But I’d like to believe his presence came into my consciousness this year as a revelation to be careful about the precious nature of life. It’s easy to believe that when you are young(ish) and healthy that Covid-19 is merely an inconvenience. It’s an illness that is dangerous for old people but not for you or me. I’ve grown tired of it. I know you have too. I want to live life the way it was before. I told my family I did. Then moments later the universe called and left a cold, hard message: not yet. Hang on just a little while longer. Continue to proceed with caution like your life depends on it. It just might.
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