What will you keep?
I enjoyed this piece by Minahil Mehdi, written for us in health care. She asks us to consider what we need right now—is it a cup of coffee? Some hours to sleep? Even more important than asking us to consider our present needs, she asks us to consider the future; a post-pandemic future.
All of us in medicine understand the importance of hope for our patients. We should take a moment to understand the importance of hope for ourselves, as well. What do you hope life will look like when this is over? What have you noticed during this pause, that you hope to keep?
— Ellen Morrow, Bariatric surgeon, Co-Director Resiliency Center, U of U Health
o the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, ambulance drivers, pharmacists, technicians, janitorial staff, clerical staff, food services staff:
I cannot call you a warrior, for warriors are away from home, caring for some while neglecting many others. Can I call you an image of god? They say you don’t see god twice, and we see you every day on the front lines; who would’ve thought that breathing, the taking in of air and bringing it out, something so seemingly inconsequential and banal will fall in your hands, weak, crippled, begging for help. And that you and only you, will sow the faint breaths of people, young and old, colleagues and strangers, like seeds in a garden to grow, in your hands; a piece of heaven amid this endearing hell. That you would at times, give it your own water, your warmth, your shade, when the seed, unable to ask, to speak, isn’t even stable enough to know how it could be helped. But you did.
How does it say, so many things the heart wants to say to you. Thank you. Or I am sorry. Or that, are you the miracle promised in bleak times? Are you the cosmos that people in doubt turn to, for guidance? Maybe you are none of these; maybe all you want is normalcy. A cup of coffee in your favorite street; maybe you don’t want praises, just some hours to sleep.
Can I tell you something? This will be over. You will wake up to a day when breathing becomes a little dance between the lungs, something inconsequential and banal, but the memory of all those you saved, the prayers you gathered, the blessings attached to your name, will last. And until that day, I share with you something of comfort that I have come to rely on in all the years that I have lived on this strange planet called the earth.
I once read in a book of scripture, a promise, a claim from the energy some call god, that we will never be burdened with something we cannot bear. That our shoulders will never carry a weight that is not in us to carry, it is an ancient promise, a promise that I have come to believe in. I offer that promise to you, I invite you, in these critical times, to believe in this promise. You will bear only that for which you have strength.
This will be over soon. You will be able to pick flowers for your dining table. The seeds you held in your hand will grow. And you, you will be remembered.
Love and solidarity,
About Minahil Mehdi—in her own words.
I am a student from Pakistan, undergoing my Master’s program at Harvard. I will borrow Toni Morrison’s words in introducing myself; I am all the pieces that I am. Introductions have always been tricky for me, how do I tell people in brief exchanges that as I shake your hand or smile, I have a pressing need to also say that I am thankful to everyone who helped me become who I am. Thankful of friends, family, loved ones, passerby’s, strangers, teachers and coaches—everyone who was generous with their time, spirit and sharing. As the world stops and many of us suffer, I think it is time to introduce myself in the way that I have always wanted to. It is time to reclaim ourselves in light of a gratitude for this world and its gifts. So here I am. Minahil, the pieces that I am and these pieces love to write, dance, sing, sit and listen, walk and occasionally get involved in some social justice work.