From the beginning, I’ve been scared of catching COVID. Not because I have underlying conditions, but because of the randomness of it. In the early days, before we knew how exactly it was transmitted, there was a story from New York City about a young man who got sick and went downhill fast. His wife and daughter took care of him, carrying his meals to the room where he was isolated, then carrying his dishes back to the dishwasher, careful not to touch anything else in the process and running his dishes in a different load from theirs. The woman had no way of knowing how his breathing was, or his oxygen, and fortunately when he felt himself really tanking, he was able to text her and say it was time to go to the hospital.
Those were terrifying days. I was at home with my high school senior daughter, planning the ways people could get to me though my bedroom door onto the patio and the side gate to the yard. For most of us, it’s not like that anymore, but I’ve still hoped to avoid catching it. The random cruelty of long COVID is nothing to play with.
That said, that same randomness has impacted my behavior in the opposite direction, too. I know so many people who have carefully masked and cleaned and stayed home, who still caught the bug. Then there were all those others who didn’t do any of those careful things and either didn’t catch it or didn’t know they had. The longer we went, the less it seemed to matter what you did.
Then came the variants, and then they said, “Everybody’s gonna catch it. Just prepare yourself.” And so it was that three members of a party of five on my family vacation tested positive for COVID, halfway through the vacation, in a fairly small Colorado town. The other two got sick a few days later.
COVID walloped me good. It was kinder to my mother (fortunately) and even meaner to my daughter, but I got a good dose of it in the middle. We ended up retreating to a hotel room for five days and nights—not the way to spend your time in Colorado, when it’s 102 at home. But we stowed some Airbnb leftovers in our little fridge, and between that, the daily hotel breakfast, a couple of deliveries from Safeway, and finally a very slow walking trip to Target, no one starved.
A few lessons or reflections from my time in hotel captivity include the following:
—My respiratory rate has increased by over five breaths a minute during the time I‘ve been sick, according to my Apple Watch.
—You can cut an apple with a plastic knife, if you’re careful and go slow.
—You can scramble an egg in a paper bowl in the microwave, using the butter from breakfast.
—Texas doctors (or mine at least) can’t prescribe across state lines, and the nurse who finally answers after you’ve been on hold for 40 minutes has already been yelled at by somebody today.
—The amount of trash we produce, especially in hotels, is deeply disturbing.
—Even after multiple cold and sinus medications that, at the time, felt miraculous and life-giving, I still feel 70% at my best.
—The smallest things—fresh air, flowers, mountains in the distance, even if obscured by fast food signs—are manifestations of the goodness of life and the ever-present possibility of joy.
—The people I saw working around us—fixing and cleaning things, providing what we needed – humbled me and gave me hope. Whoever all the people are not showing up for work this summer, the ones I met were kind and respectful, doing good work and seemingly proud of it. Probably not paid nearly enough.
I’m not sure what any of that means. I keep waiting for the really profound thing to type itself through my thumbs on my phone. I am, of course, grateful for savings and a credit card that allowed us to stay put for a while. I’m grateful for medical care and for my mother’s relative health in our midst.
Otherwise, all I know is that this time of randomness and difficulty drags on, in different ways for each of us, to different degrees, and for different reasons. The disaster, the injustice, the cruelty, the too much water and the not enough—all continue full force.
So this is part of the context for our faith today, for the life of our church. Weakness, interdependence, the power of kindness and flowers and science. My 70% brain doesn’t know exactly what that means, but I feel it deeply anyway and am glad to be connected to you.
Grace and peace,