It was a heart-rending story, shared on one of our national TV networks yesterday.

The son was sharing how his father had succumbed to Covid. No, the disease had not, itself, taken him out.

The 88-year-old man was in great shape and socially very active, playing racquetball daily, going for walks, playing Bridge and Bingo with his cohorts. He was the kind of man who could beat this disease, if anyone his age could.

But the lock-down took away most of his social life and, gradually, much of his spirit from him.

The disease did not literally take him out. The day before he died, he tested negative for covid. But the disease did take him out.

His son (I believe also a doctor) shared, painfully: “He died last July of loneliness!”

Perhaps you, like me, are hearing more and more about isolation fatigue, and feeling it yourself. In my experience, the refrain seems to be crescendoing. And with good reason. We need one another! The telephone does not provide presence; Facebook does not hug; Zoom does not offer crowd contagion, text-messaging does not offer bonding.

I do not fault our leaders. They’re struggling with the tension between ridding us of this scourge and maintaining some semblance of economic and social order. Yes, we may complain about tweaks this way or that way, but let’s keep it in perspective: those are small tweaks in a very big picture.

So let’s recount a little of our return to social and psychological well-being.

We were given a big break last summer to enjoy travels, even if restricted to our province. I witnessed numerous happy groups enjoying houseboat vacations in parties of up to eighteen, all within the (then) protocols. Others enjoyed their own preferred outdoor experiences. I hear some campsites have been booked solidly throughout the entire winter for family groups.

And outdoor back-country activities, like hiking, snow-shoeing, sledding, and many others, have increased in popularity, all within acceptable protocols.

Gradually, pro sports has come back on board, too, though without the crowd experience, only a partial rescue from “stir-crazy” for some of us.

We are able to dine out, though not indiscriminately. If we’re getting tired of the same six-person group every time (assuming we’re following protocols), at least there are five others, and at least we can get out of our prisons for this one kind of social experience.

No reprieve yet, though, for those of us who love live music, dancing, live theatre, church gatherings or live sports.

Research confirms that we need one another. Isolation is contrary to human well-being. This pandemic is Exhibit One in support of that claim. Even with some easing of restraints and opening of opportunities–do you remember how bare the streets were last spring, when one could walk down to middle of the traffic lane to socially distance from the people on the sidewalk?—we’re still suffering. We’re feeling pandemic fatigue! It’s natural for us to feel that way.

The man’s television story really drove that message home to me last night.

But, I also wondered about the bigger picture, even when we don’t have a pandemic to socially isolate us.

In what ways is the replacement of personal physical interaction by social media affecting us? How many of us may be suffering, whether or not we are aware of it, by the increased physically distant communication and the decreased physically present communication?

How many will succumb prematurely for lack of human contact?

Just wondering . . .