This past year has continued to reinforce the importance of family and friends.
As the pandemic has continued to challenge our health care system and our economy, we have spent a huge amount of time with the family we live with, but been deprived of time with extended family.
So many special occasions – and the special time they bring with family and friends – have been postponed or cancelled. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements and holiday festivities have been shelved permanently or seriously scaled down.
After two long years, it’s sometimes hard to remember what it was like to gather for milestone celebrations without thinking about limits on gatherings, wearing masks and taking COVID tests. I know you join me in longing for the return of carefree times when we could just simply celebrate together.
As I wrote my Family Day message this time last year, we were almost a year into the devastation of the coronavirus. Though we were fighting the virus by staying home and staying apart, we were hopeful that we would have already emerged from the crisis.
None of us would have wanted to believe then that new variants and waves of transmission would still be testing our hospitals or that we would still be living with gathering limits, capacity limits or other pandemic restrictions.
Life really is all about the love we get from and the love we give to our family, friends and loved ones – the family we are born to, the family we are raised by and the family we choose. The toll of this extended time of hardship has strengthened, but also weakened and severed family ties.
I often find myself thinking about how we might reflect on these two years with the benefit of time. We will likely marvel at all that we had to sacrifice and how utterly transformed our lives were during this time. We may even find ourselves yearning for the slower pace and the extended time at home with family that we experienced.
I certainly know that I will carry with me the warm memories of all the time I’ve been able to spend with my daughters that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
But many among us will remember two years of hardship, crisis, isolation and loneliness. The mental health toll has been enormous, as has the heavy burden of addictions, domestic violence and economic devastation.
United Way funded agencies have stepped up in inspiring and amazing ways to deliver critical frontline services to those most vulnerable while facing extraordinary operational challenges. We are so proud of them and the supports they provided to 310,296 of our family, friends and neighbours across Halton and Hamilton last year.
So, on behalf of everyone here at United Way Halton & Hamilton, happy Family Day. I hope you are able to spend it with those you love and that we can collectively look forward to continually brighter days ahead.