Spiritual Encouragement

Hemingway dodged it. Did you? | Allyson West Lewis

I did not dodge the virus. In 2020 and 2021, stories proliferated of people losing family, friends, and loved ones to the deadly coronavirus that swept the globe. Terrifying, but it remained, for me, word of mouth.

In late summer 2020, my husband and I welcomed our 29-year-old son back to our home when his job ended abruptly because of the virus. Weeks later, our safe, quarantined life changed the day he arrived home from his new Atlanta job coughing and running a 103-degree fever.

The fall of 2020 found us on our knees before God, in supplication for our son’s life. A young man in his late twenties, his fever broke after an excruciating 24-hour period. Ecstatic, his recovery overwhelmed us with gratitude to our heavenly Father.

Casting backward to the previous global pandemic we observe the experiences of the best-known writer of that time. Prevented from regular military duty because of his terrible eyesight, Ernest Hemingway valiantly shadowed Red Cross nurses in World War I. His up-close-and-personal war experiences both fascinated and horrified him, which he recorded in his writing.

By December 1919, the Spanish influenza global pandemic had claimed 50 million lives. Hemingway witnessed horrific deaths during the war, but those from the Spanish influenza left him shaken. “The only natural death I’ve ever seen… was death from the Spanish influenza.” He continued to describe the agony of that sight.

Hemingway dodged the peaks of the 1918-19 Spanish influenza waves by weeks. Soon after arriving at the front line, medics raced him away on a stretcher with 228 pieces of shrapnel embedded in his legs. After convalescing in Italy, he returned to the United States where he discovered family and friends had perished from the flu.

Hemingway’s fear of death meant that “the slightest possibility of flu often sent him scurrying for healthier conditions…” according to his biographer, Michael Reynolds.

Like Hemingway, we scurried to our place in South Carolina, encouraged by our son to leave him alone to quarantine at our Atlanta home. An introvert like his mom, he enjoyed the time without parental hovering.

In 1926, the Hemingway’s family quarantined when their young son received a diagnosis of potentially infectious and possibly fatal whooping cough. In a complicated twist, Ernest Hemingway also hosted his mistress at the Villa Paquita at Juan les Pins where they were located. 

While there, Hemingway edited his soon-to-be bestseller, The Sun Also Rises. And, for a while, they all enjoyed themselves—even partaking in socially distanced cocktails with the Fitzgeralds outside, over the garden fence. Not surprisingly, the Hemingway couple frequently fought.

When COVID-19 sent us into quarantine, I journaled, wrote short stories, and worked on the final edits for my second book. After a smack down by Agent X at a virtual Christian writer’s conference in Spring of 2021, discouragement ruled. I turned to binge watching Netflix along with millions of other Americans. Time for creating slipped away. The sun did not rise for my writing.

In contrast, many produced prolific writings during quarantine. I know of one writer that penned two complete books!

The Hemingways divorced within a year after that quarantine summer in 1926. Tragically, we’ve seen the divorce rate soar in the United States, especially in Baby Boomers at the beginning of the pandemic. On the good news front, some reports say those rates may now be declining.

All of us have a reset opportunity as the Coronavirus pandemic eases. Grab a journal and write about:

  • Mixed emotions as you re-enter the new normal. What are yours?
  • Pause and address the lessons of last year. What is one example?
  • Evaluate everything before resuming it. What one thing can be left behind?
  • Engage slowly. What is meaningful to you?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”


Allyson West Lewis

Allyson West Lewis is an award-winning author specializing in speculative fiction. After an extensive career as a senior Wall Street executive, she’s written a fantasy novel, a dystopian science fiction book and has published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies. She adores her husband, three grown sons and grandchildren. Allyson writes from North Georgia with a Golden Retriever and one irascible Airedale Terrier sprawled at her feet.

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