I told them about the spread of polio when I was a kid. How we couldn't go swimming in a public pool. The whispers and fear in the eyes of our parents when the disease was mentioned. How, when I was 9 or 10, I was among the 1.8 million early test subjects for the new vaccine developed by Jonas Salk.
I also recalled SARS, avian influenza, swine flu, Zika, Ebola, and other scares. "Yes, but," they pushed, "anything like this?"
Then I thought again and remembered the worst of it. My best friend in Battle Creek, where we were both new high school teachers, fresh out of college. And my old high school buddy and later best man at my first wedding. Both lost at young ages along with more than 30 million others to the AIDS epidemic, which our other TV star president, Ronald Reagan, as our present one, largely ignored until it was too late.
When I wrote The Hotel Monte Sano, I discovered why the mountain resort was so popular. In the late 1800's, people in the packed, low-lying cities of America were dying at alarming rates from typhoid, cholera, measles, and tuberculosis, and the hotel, on top of a "mountain of health" promised some respite.
So this new virus is nothing new as far as sickness, death, and pain are concerned. And once again we are reminded of how precious life is and how we owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors to be kind, gracious, generous, loving, and thankful for what little time we have here.
It brings to mind the Buddhists among us who see our life as a "floating world"--like cherry blossoms, a brief flowering in the cycle of reincarnation and dissolution.