Rachel Garber

I was trying to find out how the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic ended. Instead, I discovered that it never did.

“We are living in a pandemic era that began around 1918.”
This is from a 2009 article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Anthony Fauci, M.D. and two other researchers. They characterize this era as “an elaborate dance” in which the partners – the virus progeny of the 1918 influenza and human immune responses – “remain linked and in step, even as each strives to take the lead.”

We think of 2020 as the year of the pandemic. In reality, the novel coronavirus is only one in a long succession of pandemics. It seems that humans, with our penchant for commerce of every kind, is pandemic-prone.

As of mid-December 2020, recorded almost 1.7 million deaths worldwide known to be caused by Covid-19.
But I’d say the pandemic era began long before 1918. The Antonine Plague of AD 165 to 180, most likely smallpox, killed 5 million. It was followed by other pandemics.

I was surprised to learn the Antonine Plague was named for Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, surname Antonius. Marcus Aurelius authored of one of my best beloved books: Meditations, penned between AD 170 and 180. This, his private journal, was written in the midst of war and of plague. That makes his words particularly poignant.

The Antonine Plague was the beginning of the end for the Roman Empire, and was the likely cause of death for Marcus Aurelius himself. In military might, literature and art, classical scholar J.F. Gilliam wrote, “the ancient world never recovered from the blow inflicted on it by the plague which visited it in the reign of Marcus Aurelius.”

Ok, this may seem a rather dark meditation for a new year. But reflect on this: empires come and go. As do people. All of life is change. The universe is change. This is one of the main messages of the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism, elegantly expressed in Marcus Aurelius’s writings to himself.

Shortly before his death, he wrote, “What a tiny part of the boundless abyss of time has been allotted to each of us – and this is soon vanished in eternity.” His message: We have only the present moment to live as fully and gratefully as we are able.
“Go then in peace: the god who lets you go is at peace with you,” his Meditations end.
So go then, 2020, and come, 2021. Our pandemic era has not yet ended. Be strong. Live each day fully and gratefully. Find joy in nature. Happy New Year!


Have you Zoomed yet? If not, and if you’d like to give it a try, help is at hand. Michelle Lepitre is organizing three Zoom events in the coming two weeks, and she offers to help if you could use a bit of guidance on how to Zoom. Did you know you can also join a Zoom meeting by phone, if you don’t have access to a computer? Email Michelle at or phone her at least a few days in advance of the event. Leave a message and she will call you back: 819-566-5717.
“The Price We Pay for Safety – Managing Risk and Uncertainty in Life,” is a very timely video-conference to be presented by Dr. Camillo Zacchia (Clinical Psychologist), on Wednesday, January 20, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. via Zoom. It’s part of the Community Health Education Program (CHEP) through Townshippers’ Association. Free of charge. In English. To register and receive the Zoom link, email Michelle Lepitre at
“Winter Wellness: Bouncing Back During the Winter Months” is the theme of a Zoom presentation by Mental Health Estrie and Townshippers’. Date: Thursday, January 21, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., via Zoom. You are invited to “grab a cup of hot chocolate, tea or coffee” and “explore what is within our control this winter, and what will allow us to warm up those winter blues and foster positive mental health. We will discover the importance of going back to basics, of cultivating a growth-mindset, and of setting SMART goals/New Year’s Resolutions.” Free of charge. In English. To register and receive the Zoom link, email Michelle Lepitre at
Michelle is organizing a Poetry Break via Zoom on Monday, January 25, at 10 a.m. It’s an informal reading and discussion of several poems. No previous experience with poetry is needed. Free of charge. In English. To register and receive the Zoom link, email Michelle,
Anglican. Bishop Bruce Myers continues to offer Home Prayers at 10:30 a.m. Sundays on Facebook, and at (Worship Videos). Info: 819-887-6802, or
United. Home worship services are available for pickup at Sawyerville United Church (box on top of freezer in porch), at Trinity United Church (in plastic bag at basement door), by email, and by post. To receive service mailings, please call 819-889-2838 and leave your contact information on the answering machine, or email Rev Tami Spires at Pastoral care: Rev. Tami, 819-452-3685.
Baptist. In-person Sunday services continue for 25 or fewer persons with Covid-19 protocols in place (wash hands at the entrance, maintain a 2-metre distance from others, use assigned seating, wear masks, do not sing, do not shake hands, and leave via the exit door). The service in French is at 9 a.m., and in English at 11 a.m.
A mask is provided for persons needing one, and a list of all the attendees is kept, in case of infection. Persons with flu symptoms are asked not to attend services. The pastor’s message is also available on YouTube, by invitation only. For the link, contact Pastor Michel Houle: 819-239-8818.

Do you have news to share? Call 819-300-2374 or email by January 11 for publication January 20 and by January 25 for February 3.

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