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 | Msgr. Mark Pautler

Learning About Life and Death During Covid

March … April … May … June … July … and on and on. Has a day gone by that the pandemic hasn’t affected your mind, mood, and behavior? COVID-19 was never out of sight or out of mind. But how has it affected my life?

No haircut. Was it March 2020 when the governor announced the first lockdown? I remember saying to myself the day before it went into effect, “I’ll get a haircut tomorrow.”

No Mass. This also meant no substituting. Those weeks were the longest time I can recall not having to prepare a homily. Do you find the livestream Mass lame? I would be disappointed to hear anyone say “It works for me!” It does?

Less driving. Miles driven in 2019: 13,484. Miles for 2020: 6,882. I appreciated the reduction in auto expenses. I even received a couple of modest checks from the insurance company that covered two tanks of gas for the miles I didn’t drive.

More biking. About a year ago, I started cycling to the Chancery. You know, reduce the carbon footprint, stay healthy. Getting there is easy-peasy—downhill, across the Gateway bridge and through the east end of the Gonzaga University campus.

Early in October, I figured that my bike-to-work days were coming to an end. I was right. My bike was stolen from the west side of fortress chancery. The Gonzaga students living next door were terrific. They spotted the thief, pursued him as far as they could, and made a report. Sadly, the bike was not recovered. I have replaced it and am still on a roll. Jon at the bike shop suggested securing it with a more robust cable with a keyed lock. If code crackers could defeat the Nazis’ Enigma, a bicycle combination lock can’t be too difficult. The new bike came in black. Mother would like that. I feel her hinting that I should add a red pinstripe accent. Sorry, Mom. I’ll make do with a bungee cord and a tail light.

Travel during COVID-19 has been discouraged. Nonetheless, I made two trips to Seattle to visit Tom and Nedra. And the cats. Pets have provided essential comfort in this time isolation. Pre-COVID, these friends had tried out a puppy, but it tired them out. Nedra had to manage the pet chores and care for a disabled husband. Now, they have two cats: the tuxedo twins. Starbuck and Fletcher are self-sufficient and entertaining. They roam, they run, they wrestle. The major problem they created is a jailbreak whenever the front door is opened. During my visit, we thought one had succeeded in escaping, until we finally tracked his meow to a kitchen cabinet. Some extra cleaning was needed.

This pandemic time has been a matter of life and death. I suppose nothing can be more serious or spiritual than that. What are the lessons and the learning about life and death that this test is teaching? That’s a question I have not yet answered.