07.04.2020 Feature Article

Breathing In Life During The Pandemic

Breathing In Life During The Pandemic
07.04.2020 LISTEN

The coronavirus has infected more than 1.2 million people and killed more than 68,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Death from the coronavirus catapults the religious to seek answers from celestial places. Crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?” But we know from the beginning of the beginning, death entered humanity—and a death on the cross saved humanity. Death opens the afterlife door, but earthly loss brings sorrow deep and wide. And we forget to breathe.

Death visits when breath departs. Coffins, coronavirus obituaries, crematoriums,cemeteries—we bury and honor loved ones as grief grips the heart and soul. Nonetheless, the contagious disease forces us to mourn in isolation.

“If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance.”– Andrea Boydston

Other microbes have taken turns at trying to terminate humankind. While fragile, the body is also resilient.

On March 23, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the forested rural region of southeastern Guinea. The identification of these early cases marked the beginning of the West Africa Ebola epidemic, the largest in history.

In the spring of 2009, a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus emerged. It was detected first in the United States and spread quickly across the United States and the world. The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) estimated that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1) virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak. Of these, 774 died. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV).

The 1968 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H3N2) virus .It was first noted in the United States in September 1968. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States.

In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering a pandemic. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.

“Only now do we value every breath that escapes our lips. Perhaps now we will learn to be grateful.”— Saim Cheeda

Read about the world’s worst pandemics according to the History website at

The Plague of Justinian in 541 CE decimated Constantinople and spread across Europe, Asia, North Africa and Arabia killing an estimated 30 to 50 million people.

The Black Death, which hit Europe in 1347, claimed 200 million lives in just four years. Responsible for the death of one-third of the world population, this second large outbreak of the bubonic plague possibly started in Asia.

The Great Plague of 1665 was the last and one of the worst of the centuries-long outbreaks, killing 100,000 Londoners in seven months.

Smallpox, in the 15thcentury, was endemic to Europe, Asia and Arabia for centuries, and killed three out of ten people it infected.

In the early- to mid-19th century, cholera tore through England, killing tens of thousands.

Though it had been around for ages, leprosy grew into a pandemic in Europe in the Middle Ages, resulting in the building of numerous leprosy-focused hospitals to accommodate the vast number of victims.

The Spanish flu (also known as the 1918 flu pandemic) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people.

When an epidemic spreads beyond a country’s borders, that’s when the disease officially becomes a pandemic.

What is the takeaway from this column?
I plead guilty of grumbling and grouching over small things that don’t really matter. Isn’t clean water, food, shelter, and access to medical care a human right for all? Can’t we lead simpler lives so others may simply live?

Does it take a pandemic for humans to appreciate their next inhale and exhale? Does the human hamster wheel need to stop before we reevaluate purpose and passion?

The eternal question of the true meaning of life comes into question during a global pandemic. Will the sun go down on the dawn of understanding when the coronavirus ends?

I am thankful to be healthy and alive during this impending catastrophe. Today, I am grateful for oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide—and my lungs. When COVID-19 is over, will my heart continue on the path of gratitude?

“Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life.”– Giovanni Papini

Melissa Martin, Ph.D. is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in U.S.

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