We are the .03%. We are the elderly ones who are not as strong as we used to be. We are the ones who can no longer remember who we are. We are the ones whose biological makeup was permanently altered by chemicals, which saved our lives from cancer. We are the ones whose organs do not function properly. We are the ones whose limbs are damaged or missing altogether. We are the ones whose own immune systems have turned on us. We are the ones whose heart and lungs are struggling to make it. We are the ones in wheelchairs who gave our strength for this country. We are the ones who are vulnerable, compromised, and weak.
We are the ones who are at a high risk of dying of the virus if we get it.
We appreciate all you have done to keep us safe. We know it has been difficult for you to shut yourselves up to spare our lives. We know what it feels like to give up freedom of movement. We know what it feels like to be unable to do the things you love. Our lives have been forever changed like that for a long time. We have learned to adjust. We have learned that life can still be beautiful, even in our weaknesses, even when we are disabled or sick.
We understand how tiring it is and why you want to get back to your lives. We want that, too. We would give anything to be able to have our lives back. We know it feels like you are helpless to be out of work. We know it feels like you are not contributing. We know it feels like your freedom is gone when you are told you cannot do what you want. We have learned to deal with being dependent on others. It is not easy.
We realize we all have to die one day. We have thought of how it will feel, since we have faced it before. We know some of us will die from the regular flu, a heart attack, a stroke, or a car accident. In our minds we picture family nearby, surrounding us with love as we fall asleep forever. We know if we get this disease we will instead be surrounded by screens and machines, and very much alone. We try not to think about that. We have learned to be grateful for today and not to dwell on things we cannot control.
We know you have to get back to work so you will not lose everything. We have lost everything, and it is so very hard. Fortunately, we live in a country were starvation is considered unacceptable and there are food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, schools, churches, and charities who feed us when we can’t feed ourselves. And we thank God for friends who show up with groceries when we need them. We have learned to accept help when we need it.
We understand that you don’t want to be us. As much as we say all life is equally valuable, we know when it comes down to life or death, or even convenience it just isn’t true. It has been that way for centuries. We had the shortest walk from the cattle cars to the chimneys. We were the first to be shot in the death marches. The Trail of Tears found us left to the side to die. History is full of the weak being sacrificed for the strong. This crisis has doctors around the world choosing who will live and who will die. We know what the choice will be for us should it come to that here. In the hurry to open up there will be more exposure, and more exposure for you, means more risk for us. We don’t expect you to understand. You are not one of us…yet. You will be later, or maybe sooner. Then you will know. We have already learned that our lives depend on the decisions of others.
We know it is up to us to keep ourselves separated from the rest of you. We understand that you cannot protect us forever. We do put a damper on things for you, but then our lives have put a damper on us for a while now. It’s not like we are children with our whole lives ahead of us; those we would save. We have less life to go than most, so if this virus gets us then it must be our time. Nothing that has happened to weaken us has been our choice, so why would this be any different. It is out of our hands and in yours. We have fought for years to have a chance at life in the midst of our limitations, we will continue to do so. We are not victims. We know how to fight, we are brave, but we also know most of the time it is not entirely up to us. We have learned acceptance of hard things.
When you talk about us as a tiny percentage, please remember we still have feelings. When you say it is ‘only’ the elderly or weak who are dying, that devalues us. When you say your freedoms are being taken, that blames us. When you say the sacrifice you are making isn’t worth it, that says we are worthless. When you demand to open up, it scares us, because we know what it means. It all causes us pain. It stings. It feels like rejection. It feels like abandonment. There are so many voices clamoring to be heard, ours needs to be one of them.
There is only one thing we would ask of you. Think before you speak. That’s all. Just take us into consideration before you pick your words. This time is hard for everyone, especially the .03%.