MERI Center Blog

Au revoir April

photography by Hitomi Silver

Au revoir April

By Gayle Kojimoto
May 1, 2020


For a minute, the corona cloud splits open
The sun shines through
I see a familiar face
A friend in the fog
Whose voice is beauty wrapped in love

By Susan J. Cohen,
Food for Thought participant

In San Francisco, more special events, such as the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, were cancelled, professional sports are still on hold, and schools are now providing distance learning.  Shelter in Place (SIP) orders have been extended and now we must wear masks while shopping, waiting in lines, riding public transportation, or unable to physically distance ourselves. 
Some days it’s hard to tune out the uncertainty, chaos, fear, and sadness, to not focus on the losses we’re experiencing.  The loss of touch, the loss of normalcy, the loss of life.  Days blend together and it’s hard to distinguish one from another.  It’s hard to find motivation and to see the light.  I’m calling it Coronavirus Fatigue and I’m sure others are feeling it too.  Dr. Mike Rabow, our director, sent me a post for our blog, co-written by Dr. David Bullard, entitled “Invisible Losses: Secondary Trauma, Survivor’s Guilt and Moving Through the COVID-19 Crisis” and it accurately describes how I feel intermittently. 
However, there is so much to be grateful for.  We are flattening the curve.  Scientists around the world are working on faster tests, new treatments and of course a vaccine. In the Bay Area, UCSF has been at the forefront of research.  Palliative care providers have been busy creating tools for having difficult conversations, having those conversations with families, training others in the use of telemedicine & primary palliative care.  A number of our palliative docs, including Dr. Steve Pantilat, our division chief, & Dr. Mike Rabow, the MERI Center Director, have done webinars or phone conferences on a variety of subjects.  Drs. Eric Widera & Alex Smith from the UCSF Division of Geriatrics, continue to host their GeriPal podcast & blog with guests from the frontlines in NY, Boston to hospices & and long-term care facilities on a variety of subjects.  My favorite so far was their video Love Letter to Mt Sinai, where the panel thanked their colleagues from Mt. Sinai, offered them works of support, and serenaded them with “Don’t Stop Believing”.
At the MERI Center, we continue offering our great workshops, which seem all the more relevant and necessary now. We’ve added more sessions of our What Matters Most? Free, 2-part Advance Directive workshop through the summer.  Our Food for Thought: Online Poetry Café continues as well. In our first 3 sessions, we’ve formed a supportive & kind community that is beautiful & creative.  The poetry cafés will continue through June and we look forward to you joining us.  We are in the middle of our Sustainable Caregiving course and will run these sessions again in the summer.  For the foreseeable future, all of workshops will be offered via Zoom.
Our biggest announcement is that, together with the UCSF Division of Palliative Medicine, we are planning an UCSF Day of Remembering, a memorial service via Zoom.  During this time of physical distancing, it is difficulty to mourn our losses. The Day of Remembering hopes to bring our community together to remember and honor our loved ones, our patients, our friends and our colleagues.  I hope that you will join us on Friday, May 15, 2020 at 3:00 PM PDT.  Please share this event widely. 
While we are apart physically, we are all in this together.  We hope you are all well, but it’s ok if you’re not.  We will be here to sit with you and bear witness to your struggles and we look forward to the day we can see you in person.
For now I leave you with this poem, written by Lauren D’Andrea, another of our Food For Thought participants:

I am Sustained
By Lauren D'Andrea
I am sustained by
Lazy days
Lounging in the sun on the deck
Laughing with my sister
Cooking each other meals
A natural cadence
And sense of ease
No urgency
No agendas
A strange, but welcome relief
From the usual chaos
And noise.
I am sustained by
Having the time and space
To reflect
(Or not)
To relax
To follow any passing whim
Or desire
To walk
Without destination
To feel the wind
And spend just a few extra moments
Taking in the first blooms
Of spring