The Star-Herald

Connections with people are what matter

Time flies. You hear this when you’re young, and people tell you, “You’ll understand when you’re older.” 

I am older. I understand.

This year has flown and we’re just about to begin all over again.

A new beginning will be welcome. The year 2021 brought new adventures and left me with much gratitude. But it also brought a goodbye to my beloved aunt — my godmother, “second mom,” travel buddy and, for the last 19 years, my roommate. 

Grief is most definitely a journey. It is an isolating, deeply personal journey that defies description, because it’s different for everyone. Some days I am amazed to find myself still breathing, still hoping, still finding humor. Each day I feel just a bit stronger.   

Thanks for that go in large part to my father — my sounding board, calm amid chaos, fellow adventurer and (I may be a tad prejudiced) best Dad ever. I’m also endlessly grateful for my work family, who have offered unwavering support, hugs and comfort. Family, faith and the kindness of friends heal the soul.

Life is slowly returning to normal on a larger scale as well.

Despite COVID-19 and all its variants, we as a community seem to have found an anchor to keep us from drifting: each other.

Though perhaps more evident at holiday time, something slowly began to take hold as we trudged the pandemic path. Families realized they missed one another. Friends longed to reach out. Co-workers collaborated via technology. Bound by isolation, people learned new ways to engage. 

The hidden nugget in this is simple: We are wired with a need to connect with one another. 

Social media is our modern Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll connects people and shares the good things about life; Hyde spreads discontent and derision. But more to the good, social media has given us family time, school classes, concerts, worship services and charity campaigns from the safety of our homes.

When nursing homes shuttered for COVID safety reasons, families began holding gatherings outside loved ones’ windows. 

People “ate out” — which meant grabbing take-out and parking in groups to chat through open windows.

Neighbors checked on one another more often, and held community parades to celebrate occasions.

Parents facilitated their children’s learning from home.

Kids — and all of us — went back outside to play, breathe fresh air, observe backyard wildlife, walk, bike and generally appreciate nature anew.

No matter what the world throws at us — COVID and all — human nature finds ways not only to adapt, but to defy what threatens.

My aunt always said, “People need people.” 

This holiday season, may you find all you need in those who surround you.

Paula Brewer is assistant editor for The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, Houlton Pioneer Times, St. John Valley Times and Piscataquis Observer, plus websites TheCounty.ME and FiddleheadFocus.com. She can be reached at 207-764-4471 or via email at pbrewer@bangordailynews.com.

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