A physician who once dreamed of freezing time to savor life's richest moments learns in the pandemic that pause is unnatural and paralyzing. 

Jordan Orange
July 30, 2020

This is part of a Columbia News series, titled Lessons Learned, which invites the Columbia community to reflect on the pandemic and the insights they have gained from their COVID-19 experience. These essays speak to the innovation, creativity and resourcefulness we have witnessed during this period of unprecedented challenge, as well as some of the silver linings in the actions we have had to take by necessity.

If only time could stand still … 
The sight of my daughter’s face turning to that of an adult 
The precious few moments in which our family is together 
The image of vacation with my girls hopping among the waves chlorine in the air as I drink in their swimming in a competition, faces red, trying their hardest.

The depth of my wife’s caring eyes that I can never seem to get enough of
The work I do for which there is always room to do more, be better and engage further
The back of my hand, beginning to show signs of age
How many times have I wished I could just press pause.

To savor, to never forget, to catch up, to experience, to postpone the inevitable …

I now find myself at least partially paused. The pandemic has returned my daughters to me and removed their competition for time between family and that of the rest of the world’s excitement. While my work and its mission continue so much of it is turned upside down and frozen. We are intensely focused on being paused and awaiting the moment to reengage, even if at one-quarter speed. It is wrong, it is unnatural and it is paralyzing in its paralysis.

What it has done for certain is convince me that if I had ever wished for time to stand still that I take that back. 

While we are all together for the longest we have been since some near mythical vacation of years past; stopping time has plucked from life the one thing that makes us all wish that time could stand still in the first place. Momentum. Life’s momentum allows for the moment just passed to be savored. Momentum is blossoming with beauty and gives rise to a sadness born only out of inspiration. I cry for my children whose beautiful and fragile momentum is holding. I wish for them to have it back—despite what it does to the back of my hand and the number of times I will be able to hold theirs, and although it will undoubtedly limit the number of days with which I can gaze into my wife’s eyes. 

Jordan Orange is the chair of pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and pediatrician-in-chief of NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.