COVID-19 took a lot from all of us. For some, it took our loved ones. For others, it took our jobs. For still others, it took our work-life balance because we had to learn how to work from home while caring for our own children. I could go on and on.
I bet my story isn’t what you’d suspect. You see, I didn’t lose anyone to COVID. And as you can tell, I am writing this so I am indeed still alive as well. But that virus… the one that stopped the entire world back in March of 2020 took so many things I can never get back.
Early this year, my mother was hospitalized for a heart condition that wasn’t improving. She had three growing aneurysms on her heart and a diagnosis of emphysema. I immediately went to see her in the hospital. Not knowing it was the last time I’d see her alive, I promised to see her again. She needed surgery, but the doctors informed us she would likely not make it through the procedure. The next day, she went to hospice care.
I wanted to rush back to her the minute I found out. However, I knew I needed to get a COVID test before making my way there. I felt fine. No symptoms. It felt like an eternity before the test results came back. At 2:30 a.m., I woke up and checked my phone.
Positive. I was COVID positive.
I was in denial.
My mother was in the active stages of passing away, and I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t hug her one more time. I couldn’t wipe the sweat from her brow. I couldn’t hold her hand or smell her— every momma has a smell, am I right?! I couldn’t talk to her or tell her all the things I wished I’d said and done in the past almost 37 years of my life. I couldn’t thank her for being a good mom. I couldn’t tell her I forgave her or that I was sorry for the times we disagreed. A whole lifetime of memories flashed before my eyes. COVID took that time from me.
Because I contracted COVID, I quarantined immediately. There are not a whole lot of worse things I can think of than being isolated from my own family while my mother passed away. I hoped she would hold on a few more days until my quarantine was over. I called my brother and sister on Facetime, but it just wasn’t the same as being there.
On a Sunday morning, my husband told me he thought he had a fever. I had unknowingly given him COVID during those early stages when I didn’t know I had it. Although I hate that I gave it to him and two out of three of our kids, I felt grateful to not be alone anymore. Soon after we reunited, I got the call that my mother left this world to be with Jesus.
She did not pass away from COVID. But COVID took that experience from me.
I have since wondered and processed these things that have happened to me in the past year, and I cannot seem to make sense of anything. I have been in a deep daze almost, going through the motions of my life because I have to and because I want to and because my family needs me to and because my students needed me to. There really is no explanation and I’ve come to the realization that I never will get one.
When grief hits you, it’s like a wave. I tell people I welcome the tears because, for me, the feelings I allow myself to feel are valid. They’re real. And I choose to ride the wave of those feelings instead of bury them. So when a memory comes over me and floods me with grief, I let myself have the tears.
While I was overwhelmed with grief, there were people who were willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus and reach out their arm in support. The meals, the cards, flowers, texts, calls, cookies, funny stories, all of it. The kindness, love, and support are still some of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced.
Everyone has a story. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Our spirit needs to be reminded how strong we really are. We can conquer fear with action. Whether it’s therapy or podcasts or books or prayer or a moms group. Those little actions take root in our lives. And I’ve learned to be aware of how I speak to myself, too. Sometimes, the story we’re continuously telling ourselves can be the cruelest one of all.
We only get one life. We have to make it count. Everything in our life is building us. Even the hard things.
And it’s up to us to set the tone and be present with ourselves as well as our children.
I’ve learned that it is possible to hold fear in one hand and courage in the other. They don’t have to be separate. Actually, there is beauty in the mess of holding onto both. There can be impending doom in front of us, but in the waiting, there is still meaning. It is possible to hold joy in one hand and pain in the other, too. It makes us human. And grateful to be alive.
So, take THAT, COVID!