Bob Roth

In September, the 20-year commemoration of 9/11 brought me back to a time when our nation came together in grief and patriotism. I remember it well and the feeling of unity was palpable then. The public largely set aside political differences and rallied in support of leadership and each other. Not surprisingly, Americans also turned to religion and faith in large numbers.

As the toll of COVID-19 mounts, I am profoundly disheartened to report that people have responded very differently to this tragedy. These days, partisan tribalism breeds contempt and mistrust. The ill effects are seen in our schools, in professional sports and in communities. I am deeply concerned that the stress on the family and our most trusted relationships are

being tested.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said it quite succinctly: “The pandemic behind the pandemic is the fracturing of relationships and the loneliness that results.”

The family unit is the infrastructure of our relationships. It is what we turn to, lean on and depend upon. Relationships with the dear friends who become our surrogate family members are crucially important as well. The more closely we are connected to the people we love, the happier we feel and the more personal satisfaction we have in our lives. Most people rate moments of connection and shared enjoyment with their loved ones as their most important life experiences.

I have had conversations with my homecare clients and relatives in their final days and hours of life. I have had the privilege to sit and hold their hand and hear their reflections on their life.

What people talk about in these final moments is the people they loved, the families they created, the friendships that spanned decades and

sometimes continents.

These moments confirm for me that a life well lived can be measured by the strength of the relationships we create. There is a deep sense of fulfillment and well-being when we prioritize our relationships and build a life centered around the people we love.

Humans have evolved to be social. We evolved from hunter-gatherers who derived their safety in numbers. We are hardwired to crave connection and companionship. An induced state of stress caused by isolation and loneliness can adversely affect one’s health. The chronic stress of isolation and loneliness can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, I yearn for the good old days when a family member gave a stark warning on the way to dinner, “No talking politics.” This year you may never get that warning because requiring a vaccine card or a negative rapid test is perceived as an “unvitation.” Prioritize relationships first by having a shared understanding of your disagreement and then move forward.

As we get ready to enter the secular new year, let’s focus from today forward on nurturing our trusted relationships. Try to include a senior loved one or friend who needs some extra TLC, and be sure to hold your family and friends closer to your heart. We should all be seeking a way going forward to define our lives as “relationship-centric.” JN

Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.