We've Just Begun Social Distancing~ Here Are My Thoughts

It is March 14, 2020. I am in my house under self imposed isolation. Not because I have been exposed to Covid 19, let alone tested positive, but because I am 79 years old. Not frail, not sick, just 79 years old.

What I am noticing from this now two week isolation, is the similarities between my behavior and thoughts, and end of life behavior and thoughts. I'm thinking and acting like someone with a life threatening illness.

I was doing the laundry, an everyday, normal function, when I looked in the mirror and saw my no make up face and a body still in her bathrobe at 9AM. Who was this person? This person that always puts makeup on, showers daily and dresses very nicely even if she has no where to go?

This is the same as a person with a life threatening illness who thinks why bother, it doesn’t matter, this isn’t important. Isolation from others is teaching me this about my self ——- I do a lot for others, for their thoughts of me, why else do I wear makeup? Get dressed? Bathe (well maybe just for the smell of me)?

I started thinking about how aimless I have become. Floundering to be useful, feeling guilty for not “doing something”, for not appearing productive. Through this isolation my sense of purpose has been affected. Why do I get up in the morning? What do I do all day to keep busy, to fill my time?

So it is with someone with a life threatening illness, from new diagnosis to weeks before death (once labor begins, weeks before death, mental activity changes and this doesn’t apply). They lose their purpose for getting up in the morning, for what to do about the life they are leaving behind? Apathy and depression often follow.

When someone has been told they have a life threatening illness, that they probably can’t be fixed, their life changes, their fears take hold, their thoughts turn to new areas of consideration, their living patterns change.

My husband and I, at 86 he is in this isolation with me, are more attuned to each other, more affectionate, trying to be more connected, nicer, more considerate. It's like unconsciously we are reaching out to what truly matters. It is the same with family and friends. I now think about texting and phone calling just to visit, just to say hi. So it is with someone approaching the end of their life. People often become the focus, relationships matter more.

I’m going to qualify this entire blog by saying we die the way we have lived and according to our personality. A personality that didn’t perceive others, consider others, relate to others will not suddenly, because they can’t be fixed, become Mother Teresa-like. (I do wonder if maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of what might have been glides through their mind hoping to be perceived).

These are the same questions of self searching that affect someone facing the end of their life. Now, I may not be facing the end of my life, right now, and I hope as you read this you aren’t either BUT we will all be in this approaching end of life spot someday, as are the patients we serve and care for.

As I’m sitting at my computer I look out my window and see, in March, snow quietly falling. I see inches of snow, birds at the feeder, all is quiet, all appears right with the world. An illusion, yes, all is not right with the world, but touching into that peacefulness, that calm is healing for my restless mind and spirit.

My wish for you in this time of isolation, of social distancing, is to let the distancing be physical but not emotional. Reach out to others, use this time to evaluate your life, activities, your purpose. Use this separation from the normal pace you have developed to recharge, relax, and reevaluate.


Shauna Burrow

Barbara, thank you for your thoughtful sharing.
You are right I have been 5 days in social distancing. So today I put out a Zoom call to some folks, for tea time. It was great to see and talk to them and we are going to invite others to participate.
I felt much better this afternoon.


Once again, i sit, read, and am in awe of your selflessness !
I dont want to lean into a conversation about GOD here. But im sure your an angel in a human suit…theres just such a peace ive recieved sooo many time from your writings…its just got (in my life) JESUS all over it.
Thank you!
Blessing to you and yours in this time of beautiful reflection for all!
I hope others will follow in this path!


I forgot to add, we just watched “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” tonight, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. I’m Canadian, so our TV version was called the “Friendly Giant” instead… I had rarely seen Mr. Rogers before this movie: but perhaps his kindness and gentleness what we’re missing in our “modern” North American society these days? Please watch this lovely movie if you can! and thanks again for your booklets Barbara, I got the basic pack of 4 and will cling to them “next time around” I’m sure…


Hello Barbara, Thanks for voicing some of the thoughts I have been feeling today! which is Day 3 or 4 of social distancing for us… see, I’ve forgotten already! I should’ve made a mark on the wall, like someone lost in a cave :) I’m 66 and my hubby is soon 75 years old. I went to the hardware store today in our little town, and the few people I saw all danced warily around each other, while most were still trying to appear friendly… yes, I have also phoned and texted friends more than usual lately! as you described. And yes, I have hardly showered or put on makeup, even for my little shopping trip when I knew I’d be seeing others… I feel shallow! and also a bit sorry for my husband, who being older and in worse health than me, is more concerned about the virus. (No coincidence that he constantly watches news updates – I hate them!) I lost my first husband to cancer, then his mom, his younger brother, and his dad, all within 1.5 years; so I’m familiar with the dying process…. how different it was though because my husband used alternative treatments and was relatively healthy til the very end of his 3.5 year battle….I say that, true to his personality, he just ran non-stop til he hit a wall and crashed…. However, I was pretty disappointed in the (supposed) palliative care in his hometown, to which we had just moved…it basically meant just pour on the morphine, then crank it up…. If I had known that beforehand, would I have made different decisions? Probably. It’s now 6 years later and my kids are still angry with me… I’m studying for a death doula certificate now (that’s how I found your work) but I find it too depressing to study sometimes, knowing I’ll likely be widowed once again… (Happily I met and married my late husband’s childhood friend 3 years ago. It’s wonderful but not always easy!) So – lots of angst for me during this self-chosen isolation, for sure; too much time to think…. Also frustration that Dr’s don’t advocate Oil of Oregano use etc which have saved my hide more than once, when others around me got very sick! Enough venting – I’m going to go finish painting /antiquing a magazine rack of my late in-laws. That’s the only thing that has really cheered me up lately – taking up a new hobby – hopefully some of my “work” will live on long after I’m gone!

MIchael Onett

Hi Barbara, I resonated with and really appreciated your piece. May I share it with our team and our patients? All the best …I’ll follow your lead!
Michael Onett
Faith and Family Supportive Care & Hospice

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