Elizabeth Scarboro: Hope

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The restraints imposed by the pandemic are stressful for everyone. Elizabeth Scarboro’s experience earlier in life tells her that hope is a powerful thing.

When my first husband Stephen and I were in our late 20s, we got a surreal midnight phone call. It was Stephen’s doctor.  A pair of lungs lay waiting at UCSF hospital. Stephen had cystic fibrosis, and his health had begun a fast decline. By the next evening he was breathing with new lungs.

We were thrilled and terrified. Stephen wasn’t out of the woods. He’d exchanged one set of woods for another. He breathed freely, but his immune system was suppressed. A cold could be lethal.

We vowed to do everything we could to take care of the new lungs. The list was long and specific. No plane trips or bus rides. No crowds. Masks in public indoor spaces. I couldn’t work at first because Stephen wasn’t allowed to be alone. I missed my brother’s college graduation.

That stretch of time reminds me of the way I’m living now. Exhausted, unsure when the exhaustion will end. Canceling trips home, marking a year since I’ve seen my parents. Knowing I could be carrying a deadly virus.

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Those post-transplant months were daunting. But their constraints felt like background noise, set against the freedom. Stephen could breathe. He’d run up the hill near our house laughing. The new reality was nerve-wracking but exhilarating. It held one crucial thing the old reality had lacked. Hope.

The constraints I live with now feel nothing like background noise. They highlight everything I miss. But their goal is the same. Good health, not just for my family, but for all of us.

So I’m trying to see the things I do now the way I saw them then as maneuvers with a payoff in mind. As COVID fatigue sets in, I’m trying to see social distancing as my daily accomplishment.

Stephen’s return to breathing felt incredible. I hope when we’re all together again, we soak up everything we’ve missed. I hope, when I see my parents, I stop to take them in the stories they tell me, and the stories they don’t. I hope I appreciate being in the same room, all of us alive, together.

With a Perspective, I’m Elizabeth Scarboro.

Elizabeth Scarboro is an elementary school literacy coach.