By: Candace Hawkins
Friday, July 3, 2020

Well, folks, first let me say I'm sorry it's been so long! Between the chaos that has been 2020 so far and some changes in the staffing of the Lakeside family before that, we have let our blog get away from us. We're back to normal (or at least what passes for normal these days) and will hopefully have a more regular blog schedule in our future.

So, wow, where to start? It's been a weird year. And while, at times, it seems to be getting less weird, it's certainly not getting any less complicated. 

2020 was supposed to be a great year for Lakeside. It's our 5oth anniversary. And with some of the setbacks we had last year, we had planned to make this one a big year, full of all the projects and programs and events we didn't have time for last year. Full of new opportunities to connect with the families we serve and the communities we love. Needless to say, this year's not shaping up the way we planned.

We're certainly not alone in that. Everyone has had their plans affected this year, and many have also lost loved ones to this horrible disease. Most of us don't want to think about death, unavoidable as it is. But who has ever had to entertain the thought of not only losing someone, but losing them in the middle of a global pandemic? Of not being able to visit their loved one in the hospital, or not being able to hold a funeral for them? It's certainly not something I ever thought about having to grapple with in my career. 

We had to stop allowing the public to attend funerals back at the end of March. Immediate family only. Most churches and some cemeteries closed, allowing no visitors or a maximum of 10 visitors. Many people decided to lay their loved ones to rest with no fanfair, and made tentative plans to hold a memorial service later, "when things go back to normal." In other words, when we can have everyone attend. But when will that be? 

Unfortunately, we don't have an answer for that yet. New York State is improving in terms of new confirmed cases and hospitalizations attributed to the virus, and I hope that trend continues. We're seeing some businesses reopen, people cautiously wandering out of their homes with their masks on to see how the world has changed since they last thought to hope of "normal." We are able to hold funerals again, at limited capacity and with masks on, but let me tell you, it's a fair improvement over what we were able to do in April. 

Where it gets complicated is that New York is almost an island alone in terms of being hopeful for the near future. The rest of the country seems to be just entering the wave we endured back in March and April. We can have funerals, but what about all the folks who have family out of state who were planning to fly in for the memorial service for their loved one who passed in the midst of New York's outbreak? Many families are spread all over now, and for many of these people, it's just not worth the risk of travelling. My own family in California cancelled their trip to come visit me here in Buffalo back in April, and now my plans to visit them this summer aren't looking hopeful either. I miss them dearly, and I can only imagine how that must feel when added on top of a loss that seems to go unrecognized and treated as a statistic of a wider tragedy. 

Each of these people were... people. They were husbands and wives and grandparents, teachers and explorers and chefs and business owners. They each had dreams and aspirations. They each leave behind people who want so much to come together to share that loss with somebody else. To rehash the stories and jokes and memories. To hug, and talk, and be listened to. To be heard. 

I'm afraid that many opportunities to learn from this calamity will be missed. But I know one thing we will never take for granted again is the ability to simply be present with one another. To be able to enjoy the company of a friend, and come together to acknowledge these most important of life events. At the end of this, that is what matters. That's why we value weddings and funerals and birthday parties. It's to come together. It's to mark these sacred occasions, and form bonds around them, and bear witness to each others victories, losses, and special moments. We'll get back to that place, but let us never forget the fight to get there. All the lives lost, and all the grief experienced alone. All the funerals, and birthdays, and anniversaries that came and went like whispers in the dark. And let us never again take the presence of our loved ones and our communites for granted. 

Until then, we will do what we can to shoulder our collective grief and make the best of what we have, and hope that 2021 will bring many blessings. 

Watch for our next blog entry about dealing with grief during the pandemic.

This photo was taken July 15th, 2020. It's not the anniversary celebration we had hoped for, but it was a special day and an occasion marked in the most meaningful way we could manage safely. 

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