SALT LAKE CITY — The pandemic has been a time of devastating loss for so many and it's challenged our resilience. In turn, many found this time to be a period of growth or a time to reevaluate what's most important in life. KSL reporter Aley Davis explores what it will take to remember these life lessons post-pandemic.
When 13-year-old Lily Lefrandt noticed her dad baking cakes every Saturday, she did a double-take. "Yeah, I was like where did that come from?! I was so surprised!" she said.
Her hardworking, entrepreneur of a father, Jon Lefrandt, didn't usually have time to be creative in the kitchen. "I am definitely a creative person by nature, but that usually translates through business and other different aspects," he said.
When the pandemic hit, everything changed.
"I now, all of a sudden, had time to develop that talent," he said.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, he needed a new outlet. "It was really a huge challenge for me to unwind on a weekend because I couldn't go out and do things … and that was not great for me mentally," he said. "I'm not a person that likes to sit still and suddenly I was meant to do that."
This became especially challenging when his gym closed. "It was every single day, every morning without fail, and then all of a sudden, that's gone," he said. Instead, he learned to run outside and began making cakes!
Lefrandt said it was almost therapeutic for him. "It's like the way I would de-stress," he said. "It's an exact science. I mean, you have to remember temperatures and ingredients and time."
Soon Lily joined in. "She really just picked it up pretty dang quick," Lefrandt said. "It was always fun to be able to do those things together, share ideas together."
The daddy-daughter bonding time also provided a chance to connect with others in a socially distant world. "It became an opportunity for us to also think outward and say … who can we deliver the cake to? Who has a birthday that's coming up?" he said.
He admits, without the pandemic his love for cake would have never developed. "There's no way. It wouldn't have happened. I just don't have the time for it normally, and I wouldn't have set it aside that kind of time for something like that without the pandemic."
Lefrandt says this time of uncertainty proved to be a period of unexpected growth and changed his perspective on life for the better. "Certainly, personally, I've been challenged in ways I've never been challenged before and I've had to rise above those," he said. "It's also just taught us all to be super adaptable, you know, and we're more resilient than we realized."
Intermountain Healthcare's Dr. Denise Lash says the pandemic's been a time of resilience for many. "Where you're adapting positively to a negative event, so it does require that something difficult has happened," she explained.
This was especially true for Sally Carter of Sandy. When her husband's cancer relapsed during the pandemic, her family had to be extra cautious.
There's still things you can find to make every day a surprise, every day have a highlight, and go to bed happy.
"He woke up and said, 'I have cancer again' and I just couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe it," she said. "It's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It's very aggressive."
She was determined to find ways to still personally progress. "It was the case of finding the joy in being at home which hasn't resulted in the DIY projects I had hoped for," she said laughing. Plus, Sally Carter admitted, she'd go "mad" if she didn't do something.
"I was doing Zoom ukulele for a hot minute there and I decided … that's not a thing for me," she joked.
In April of 2020, Carter decided to learn Spanish and has practiced every day since. "I stumbled on the Duolingo thing and that's been a great little 15 minutes of me-time, you know; it's just finding the little moments of yourself," she said.
For Carter, who also homeschooled her daughter with Down syndrome this year, learning Spanish has challenged her mind, distracted her from worry and helped her be present. "I've been really trying to focus on staying here and now and enjoying this moment today," she said.
She found this practice has changed her perspective. "I've taken joy in the little things like taking these big old dogs for a walk, where before, it was a chore. Now it's this kind of, you know, you breathe in the nature. (It's) so beautiful here in Utah. I love it so much," Carter said.
After surgery and a bone marrow transplant, her husband is now doing much better, and Carter says the lessons she's learned are invaluable. "There's still things you can find to make every day a surprise, every day have a highlight and go to bed happy," she said. "It solidified the belief that I have that you should always make the best of whatever the situation is."
To retain these lessons as many slowly move into a post-pandemic world, Lash urges people to reflect. "First, write down what you've learned, so that if you ever feel like you're slipping, you can return back to that list and that can kind of serve as a roadmap," she suggested.
Then make a plan. "To think of your time or plot out your time, like a pie chart," she said, prioritizing what's most important.
She urges people to think deliberately about how they want to spend their time, whether that's focusing on family and friendships or developing new hobbies.
Lash often asks her patients: "Pretend it's five years from now, and what do you want to see when you look back on this time?"
"Perhaps they don't want to get back to how scheduled or over-scheduled they were pre-pandemic," Lash said.
She tells people to utilize technology and set reminders on their phones. "And it could even be like, 'Don't forget to talk with somebody one day, (or) make sure you reach out to at least one friend in the next week," she said. "Because our lives are busy, these reminders are really helpful."
Life is quickly returning to normal for the Lefrandt family. "Saturdays are now backfilled with football, basketball, baseball, dance performances," he said.
But they're determined to still make time for cake and to share it too. "It'll always be something that I can look back on as a really positive thing that happened during that period of life," Jon Lefrandt said.
Though the Carter family will be in the house a lot longer than others as her husband continues to heal, she's anxious for the day when she can put her newly minted Spanish skills to use. "The joy in thinking that any minute now I'll be able to go out and use it is so exciting," she said.
She hopes to be able to connect with other Spanish speakers and hopefully trade language lessons. She also speaks French, German, Dutch, and a little bit of Luxembourgish.
Lash reminds people — this past year has been different for everyone. She acknowledges those who have suffered so greatly during the pandemic and may not be ready to move forward yet. "It could be for some individuals who have been really hit hard by things, that just might not be in their wheelhouse at the time and that's OK, too," she reassured.