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The distance we have traveled over the last three years feels surreal. It is hard to make sense of the lockdowns, the empty streets, the rush on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and masks. I remember seeing my then-four-year-old’s hands chapped from frequent hand washing in her preschool that stayed open to support our UW Medicine community. She’s now seven, in a first-grade classroom, and I wonder about how much she remembers from this time? What will she carry with her?

While much of my own life has resumed a fast pace, there have been lessons learned from slowing down. Sitting with the uncertainty of the future forced me to be in the present. My hope is to carry that forward. This week, as I ran by ferns slowly unfurling in the arboretum along the path I traveled daily early in the pandemic, I remembered when they were my universe. In seeing them — really seeing them — I learned to notice and find awe in those things right in front of me.

I have also been reflecting on the first time we shared 55-word stories with each other. At that time, it was to put to words the emotions of grief and uncertainty we were experiencing. Three years later, we share to make sense of the time that has passed, our evolving perspectives, connections made and new-found attributes within ourselves. Thank you to all who have shared so far.

Please read through the collection from our community and add your own thoughts. We have included several stories below that represent emergent themes in our recent reflections.


Pandemics as bookends in a long career
Deja vu
The same fears
The same inequities
The same lessons?
Staring at death too long can blind you
Like looking directly at the sun
Back to basics
Hold hands
Moisten lips
A drink from a straw
A touch
A whisper
You’re not alone; it’s ok

by DD Lindsley, RN

The days were hard. We struggled, we fought, we cried.
And with each illness, each death, and every single sick person,
someone helped, someone hoped, and some healed.

And here we are now.
And here I am, with a hardness that I never knew I had.
Forever changed; sustained by strength and hope.

by Amy Johnson, Support Staff


I helped David say, “Goodbye,” to his wife on an iPad. He couldn’t see my face, but I will never forget his. Now, I hold my wife tighter. Give extra kisses. Encouraging words. Compliments. Laughter. Memories. Lifting that iPad taught me to lower my own and love those around me as deeply as possible.

by Nikki, Nurse

Hugs – The Best Gift You Can Give
I will never forget the first hug I received in more than a year (besides from my fiancé). It was from my buddy (my teammate at work), and we just stood in the street hugging and crying, and eventually laughing. I appreciate every hug a little more now.

by Vanessa Lipton, Support Staff

Kyrie Eleison

One long day starting with an uncertain sunrise
An ominous air at dusk portended the night that lay in front of us
Some slept better than others, some didn’t sleep at all

Those who made it through
Take that deep breath and know
We are alive

by Drew Hunter, Attending Physician

Reading through these 55-word stories, it is clear we can draw strength and perspective from what we’ve experienced, as individuals and as a collective. Even though life seems to be speeding up around us, let’s remember to also briefly slow down and make space in our lives for reflection, being present and connection.

With gratitude,


Anne Browning, PhD
Associate Dean for Well-Being, UW School of Medicine
Founding Director, UW Resilience Lab
Affiliate Assistant Professor, UW College of Education