Michele Schambach is a 65-year-old from Guatemala fighting aggressive brain cancer. She came to the U.S. in February for the second time for treatment accompanied by her family, namely her daughter, Marie Schambach.
Northern Ohio was covered in snow, which Marie had never seen before. As she was leaving the hospital, she was inspired by the winter wonderland to create a message to uplift her mother, as well as anyone else who sees it. Her deed was beautiful and praised in February, but nowadays, when people are isolated from their loved ones as the pandemic continues, it shows us how we can demonstrate our love from a distance.
Message in the Snow
“I looked out the window and saw a big blank slate, and thought I could write something on it,” Marie said, when she recalled the view from her mother’s hospital room.
She tried to etch out the words on a Thursday, but as it continued to snow, her digging became useless.
She tried again the next day, and this time, her message was clear: “MOM BE BRAVE.”
“I told my dad, ‘Wake my mom! Tell her to go to the window,’” said Marie. “She was happy, so, so happy.”
Marie also hoped that other patients looking out the window would see her message and feel better, like “somebody else cares.”
The Cleveland Clinic tweeted the picture with the caption: “A beautiful message was left at our main campus today. To the person who wrote it, you’ve touched our hearts. #MomBeBrave.”
Their tweet led to an outpouring of messages for Michele Schambach. She was a teacher and her students from 30 years ago in Latin America got in touch to let her know they were thinking of her.
“So happy to have so many people praying for my mom. It makes her smile,” Marie said.
As a physician, Marie believes that joy can help her mother heal faster and that all of those heartfelt messages have helped her mother’s state. Later that week, doctors reported that Michele’s white blood cell count was up. They attributed the good news to the medicine kicking in, but Marie has a different theory.
“The medicine helps, but it’s from a lot of support and a lot of prayer.” she said. 
Together While Social Distancing
In this time of illness and fear, joy and comradery are hard to come by. Those sick with or exposed to the coronavirus are in quarantine and many healthy individuals are in isolation, some with immediate family members and some without. Establishments are shut down; socializing is discouraged or prohibited. People usually unite during hard times, but instead, the pandemic has divided them. Almost.
With some creativity and a lot of heart, emotional and mental isolation can be overcome while maintaining physical isolation, just like Marie’s snowy message in February.
One stunning example is from Italy, arguably the worst affected country from the virus. The country is on lockdown. During all of this pandemonium, Italian citizens sang together from their windows and balconies. These moments were caught on camera and were posted on social media.  These clips signified people joining together during this difficult period.
What Does Social Distancing Entail?
According to Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, professor and founding head of the division of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine, it means “Stay indoors, stay away from others as much as you can, and get your food delivered. Minimize your trips out for medicine or to the grocery store. Bring your hand sanitizer and use it all the time. Don’t shake hands. Don’t use paper money. Get ready to do a lot of television watching. You should call your shut-in parents and so forth.” 
With technology available, it’s so easy to stay connected in so many different ways, from video calls to sharing videos and pictures to online gaming. Get creative and engage in activities everyone enjoys whether it’s beginning a virtual book club, taking an online class together, going on virtual tours, or watching movies over video chat. Do the things you always said you would do ‘when you had the time.’
Now more than ever we need each other, to support each other through the stress and to make sure everyone is mentally in a good place. 
And keep something else in mind: This isn’t a permanent situation. We can make the most of the time being and use it to connect to others in new ways, and perhaps become even closer. Knowing it’s not forever may ease the stress. It’s just temporary; think of it as a challenge, not a punishment.
As Thomas Chin-Chia Tsai, surgeon and health policy researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said, “This is the time to leverage the technology that can connect us — using FaceTime to share moments with loved ones. Call and talk to your friends and family members on the phone. While these measures may be extreme, keep in mind that it is not forever. We are at a critical inflection point in the trajectory of the Covid-19 infection and we have a window of opportunity to act now and minimize community transmission.” 
- Lauren M. Johnson. A daughter wrote a message of hope in the snow for her mother who’s battling cancer. CNN https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/02/15/us/cleveland-clinic-snow-message-trnd/index.html February 15, 2020
- Matt Clinch. Italians are singing songs from their windows to boost morale during coronavirus lockdown. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/14/coronavirus-lockdown-italians-are-singing-songs-from-balconies.html March 14, 2020
- Danielle Renwick. An expert guide to physical distancing – and what to do if friends and family aren’t onboard. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/23/how-to-social-distance-tips-convince-friends-family Mar 23, 2020
- Cleveland Clinic. How to Stay Connected to Loved Ones Despite Social Distancing. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-stay-connected-to-loved-ones-despite-social-distancing/ March 24, 2020
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