Who hasn’t fantasized about getting to travel back in time, even if only for five minutes, to nudge the future in a different direction? For me, one that comes to mind is a quick trip to 1928 to beg my teenage dad not to start smoking.

By now, he’d be long dead anyway. Everyone has to die of something. So what real difference would it make? Apart from wishing for a kinder end for a good man who spent his last year drowning every moment with corrupted lungs, his living even another 10 years would have kept my mother beside him in a home she loved, might have kept my nephew out of prison, and would have positively influenced dozens of other lives, including mine.

Extending the lives of good people is intrinsically worthwhile.

Right now, it’s sad seeing people cut down by covid-19, in addition to many others who face debilitating aftereffects and punishing hospital bills. Like choosing not to smoke, there’s a very simple way to probably avoid these tragedies. Get vaccinated.

This past weekend my family lost a treasured elder. My mother’s cousin Mary — an unofficial aunt to me — was cherished by many for her humor, generosity and warm hospitality. Profound kindness radiated like a beacon from her hillside home. Living in a small Wyoming town surrounded by neighbors whose first reflex is to reject government advice, her covid death was avoidable. It makes me smile to remember the time she tricked me into riding the roller coaster, and endless summer days picnicking with her in the high desert. It’s wrenching to consider that she might have enjoyed another good decade of kindly jokes and fruitful walks with her loving husband Bob.

This winter, my cousin Karla from Michigan took an untimely vacation to Florida and died there after swiftly taking ill with severe covid. Her loss leaves a permanent rip in the fabric of our family.

I can’t post a covid-related story to our Facebook page without some ridiculous jackass posting a laughing emoji, dismissing the awful reality of a horrible infection that continues killing hundreds of Americans every day. Although it’s obviously just done in a juvenile effort to be snarky, sometimes it’s hard to avoid wishing they get a personal taste of what they’re ridiculing.

Aside from those who have been tricked into thinking covid is some wicked liberal thought-control experiment, there are many who worry that the vaccine itself will eventually be discovered to have serious negative consequences. Wouldn’t be the first time. But so far there’s no sign of such blow back. The issues that have emerged — possibly including extremely rare blood clotting from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — pale in comparison to the risk of coming down with covid. A slightly sore arm was the worst I experienced after each of two Moderna doses. My 25-year-old daughter made the right risk-benefit calculation by getting the J&J shot. And my wife, despite legitimate worries about allergic reactions to almost everything, is set to get the J&J shot next week. Even bearing in mind that we may all eventually need boosters as new virus variants emerge, we feel incredible relief.

Some hold off on getting the shot because they figure enough others will eventually be immune, and that covid will soon fade into something more like a chronic nuisance. Unfortunately, too many “free riders” mean the bus grinds to a stop — the dream of achieving “herd immunity” has already died because of vaccination reluctance, a factor that also plays into the virus having an opportunity to mutate in dangerous new directions.

Don’t get the vaccine because Anthony Fauci says so. Don’t get it because I think it’s a good idea. Don’t even get it to help America get back to normal or to avoid the chance of spreading the virus to others. But imagine suddenly disappearing from your family for no good reason. You are more important than you can possibly know. Don’t make your son or daughter wish they they had a time machine so they could travel back to today and implore you to get safe and free protection from this calamity.

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