Just over three weeks ago, on the last morning of his life, I couldn’t get into the ICU to visit my younger brother, Gary, one last time. We had sat vigil the night before, the entire family, blessed to be there, because doctors, nurses and security felt empathy for us in the extreme confusion of a White House still trying to convince the President that the pandemic would trespass our shores and to shift from his “hoax” mode, along with emerging and contradictory CDC and hospital rules. By the next morning, even the strict rules on visitors the night before had been supplanted by an even more draconian prohibition and now, a total ban. Goodbyes are best said in the present as tomorrow is promised to no one.
When I was in my senior year of high school, I needed a series of operations, none life threatening. I was struck by the pale yellow cinderblock of the room immediately outside the operating rooms, where all of us patients were wheeled in, just prior to sedation and surgery. I knew I was coming out but as I peeked at the man next to me, I knew his age alone made him less certain. If this was the end, then these pale yellow cinderblocks would be the last thing he saw. At 17, I realized death could have no dignity.
And here we are, the greatest country on earth, yet one of only eight, that largely refused to prepare for the pandemic.
While my brother did not die of the coronavirus, its timing just broke our hearts even more. And now the whole world is in mourning for our collective losses. In Israel it is said when one person dies, everyone mourns because in such a small country, it is only a few degrees of separation. We are now, all, only a few degrees of separation. Not even six.
One who did die of coronavirus complications is singer John Prine, whose music I want so much to listen to as I have for nearly half a century. But now I find its soothing cords as painful as discovering a long lost love letter that still touches us so deeply that just looking at the weathered stationery turns on a time machine like the smell of grandmother’s favorite dish emanating from a kitchen decades after she passed. Whoosh. Sounds, smells, music and we are back in time.
If you only watch one thing on the pandemic this week, it needs to be this, Nicolas Kristof’s New York Times six minute video, “Heartache in the Hot Zone: The Front Line Against Covid-19.” If you want to understand courage, leadership, love and action, these six minutes have it all.
Each week since the pandemic began, I have been giving broadcasts to audiences of general counsels, lawyers, insurance executives, communications professionals and other executives, providing communications recommendations. Today will be no different, when I speak to Blue Cross/Blue Shield executives. Friday it was the Corporate Counsel Business Journal. I believe our advice is spot-on, but nothing is as powerful as those six minutes in an age of less than six degrees of separation. Leadership and action are key.
Starting next week, we launch two new broadcasts, a daily five-minute podcast called In House Warrior, distributed to most of America’s general counsels by the Corporate Counsel Business Journal and starting the following week, a Zoom broadcast co-hosted with Turbine Labs, called Monday Mornings. The In House Warrior show will provide five minutes each day on essential information for GCs about a topical issue, from cyber and litigation to FCPA and business interruption. On Monday Mornings, Turbine Labs will use its artificial and human intelligence capabilities to explore media trends for the week ahead and include guests to give us insight into what’s next. We have built these broadcasts so they can include guests from their home or office. If you want to be a guest on either one, please let us know and we will do our best to book you.
“So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello’”
Never lose hope. Help one another. Keep calm and carry on.