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  • Martha Rasche

I'm adding "Pandemic" to my Life Stories topics

Three weeks ago, I led a Life Stories session at the history center of an adjacent county. It was our sixth of eight sessions, the time I generally include questions about natural disasters, severe weather and significant fires that participants have experienced. Here in southern Indiana, that means asking specifically about the Blizzard of 1978. A retired mail carrier in the class recalled that residential mailboxes were buried for weeks — so residents set washtubs above the snow to receive their mail.

After we talked about the blizzard, I asked for memories from the Saturday night in June 1990 when back-to-back tornadoes struck the town. Those tornadoes killed six residents and destroyed homes as well as an apartment building, school, nursing home and nearly 20 businesses. One class participant spent that evening bartending at a wedding reception. One of the women in the class, a retired nurse, could tell us whose wedding it was, as the bride was her co-worker. She also reported that about 25 nurses were at that wedding reception, which proved invaluable when the reception hall later became a triage area.

A week later, I suspended our classes. We will pick up when life returns to normal, but in the meantime I just dropped in the mail the list of prompts I referred to at our last gathering. I couldn’t help but encourage these writers also to consider documenting their experiences related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some questions you might want to consider answering for your own families:

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you and your family?

In light of the government’s stay-at-home orders, how are you keeping in touch with each other? Have you developed new rituals?

What places that you used to frequent have been closed to the public? What events that you would have attended (social, sports, cultural, etc.) have been canceled? How are you reacting to these disappointments?

If you are the person in your family doing the grocery shopping, try to describe a typical trip to the store. Include details of the changes that have taken place since a month ago.

What activities have you done as you’ve sheltered in place?

Do you have grandchildren completing their studies online rather than in schools or at universities?

Are you attending church services online?

What is your best advice for coping?

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