We enter 2021 with hope. A vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech for COVID-19 was authorized for emergency use on Dec. 11, 2020, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Two days later, tractor-trailers loaded with vaccines at Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Mich., headquarters headed out to Federal Express and UPS locations around the country for further distribution.

On Dec. 14, Sandra Lindsay, an intensive-care-unit nurse, became the first person to publicly receive the Pfizer shot here in the U.S. She works in Queens, N.Y., at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Lindsay will receive a second shot at a later date. She told Business Insider, “I feel hopeful today, relieved … I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the end to a very painful time in our history… I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe.” It is expected that senior U.S. government officials, frontline health care workers, and those at long-term care facilities will be among the first groups to receive the vaccine.

When in our lifetimes have we seen such a concerted effort put into effect to make a vaccine available in such a short amount of time? An enormous group of people have been working behind the scenes to make this come to fruition, and we owe them our sincere thanks.

As I look back at 2020, I am reminded of many things. Life is fragile. We all know this, but we tend to forget about it until something happens that is out of our control. We go about our daily routines taking life for granted until something happens – an illness, an accident, or an unexpected crisis. When COVID-19 attacked the U.S., we were unprepared for what was to come. Even our top researchers and medical people were not in agreement as to how to properly contain it. By Dec. 14, 2020, the U.S. reached over 300,000 deaths. We were all involved in a war to survive.

We were faced with our mortality, and it was scary. We watched as elderly people died as well as some who were younger and in much better health. Others were very sick and spent months in critical condition while others recovered quickly. People died alone with their spouse or child unable to be with them at the end. I wanted to see family members but it was considered too risky to see some of the younger ones because although they didn’t normally get sick, they could be carriers. I thought, “What if I get this?” With my underlying condition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, I knew I probably wouldn’t survive it. I have no extra strength to combat an illness. If it happened, I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my family in person. Yet many people were saying goodbye through phone calls and videos because they were not allowed in the hospitals to visit.

In December, I watched a video by Dr. Zubin Damania, an internist and founder of Turntable Health. He did his residency training at Stanford and spent 17 years as a practicing hospitalist. He currently has a video program on YouTube (a/k/a ZDoggMD) dealing with many topics of healthcare. Damania was the first one I heard who said that letting our loved ones die alone was wrong. If family members wanted to be with the dying person and they were willing to suit up with gowns, masks, and gloves, then it should be allowed. So why did we allow the opposite to happen? That question weighs on my mind as I have read of many patients who had to say goodbye on a video. I think of my mother who died four years ago. My husband and I were with her when she passed away. The one thing she had always told me was, “Don’t let me die alone.”

Life’s activities were curtailed. There were rules and boundaries to survive. Wear a mask, wash your hands often, and stay six feet away from others. Our favorite restaurants and businesses shut down along with hair salons and gyms. Some of these places will never reopen. The pandemic has ruined a lot of people financially. I think of young families with schools closed and children learning by Zoom, parents trying to figure out how to homeschool and also work, and trying to figure out how to pay bills when they can’t work.

Elections may occur during pandemics and people still need to vote. Votes do count and we should make sure that the procedures are followed correctly. Learn about the people running for office and how they stand on the issues. Pay attention to what our representatives are doing or not doing for us. They work for us and not the other way around. Maybe you find politics boring, but these people are elected to represent us. Encourage young people to sign up and vote.

Kindness matters. It has always mattered, but when times are tough, it matters even more. Communities make sure their members have food. We can help some of our senior citizens by offering to pick up groceries or do errands. Paying someone a compliment may help brighten a dark day. We should not be too busy to check up on others as depression and suicide increase at times like this.

Life is a journey. Let us hope and pray that the worst is behind us. Never give up on hope. It will sustain us in the worst of times.