Up until last week, I thought of Covid-19 more as a nuisance, an inconvenience, just something to be endured. I complained about wearing a mask, and about restrictions that have been imposed by the government, restrictions that seem to change dependent upon where we might live in the province or the world. I heard the distressing statistics about rising numbers of Covid-19 and the numbers of people world-wide who are sick from it. They were mere numbers to me. I was saddened by the loss of life, but again it really did not affect me personally.
Until last week.
Until we lost a friend to Covid.
We had known Dan and Melanie for ten years when they lived here in Cochrane. Dan was a seminary professor and an active member in our church. He had a passion for the Gospel and was a church planter and missionary. He and Melanie led many Bible Studies, and we enjoyed gathering with them in and out of church. My husband worked with Dan on the last Pastor-Search committee. We celebrated birthdays together; had games nights with them, and rejoiced over grandchildren being born into both our families. We prayed often together, especially last year when I was battling cancer. They were numbered among the many prayer warriors I had in my corner. When Dan retired from the seminary in January, we sent them off to the States with a happy farewell knowing they were looking forward to spending time with their children and grand-children after years of being away from them because of their ministry here in Canada. I kept up with them online as they settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma and liked to hear updates from them.
Dan commented on Facebook on June 28th: “Reviewed the research on Covid-19 last night. There is a growing consensus among virologists that, unlike many viruses, the early symptoms of Covid-19 for many people are so mild they rationalize them away. It doesn’t change the fact that they are contagious. They are contagious before they know they are sick! They are breathing out micro-droplets that have the virus in them. The other conclusion was that a few people “shed” virus in their breath, etc. in far larger quantities than others. These “super spreaders” are very dangerous when they aren’t showing symptoms. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are in the early stages of infection or not, so it is prudent to take precautions any time you come in contact with others, whether they look healthy or not. Yet, the reality is that almost no one can entirely isolate themselves. the two guidelines of health departments make sense in light of the research: wear a mask, N95 rated if you can, and stay a “safe” distance from others. Having said that, when Mel and I have gone out in the past two weeks, almost no one we encounter is wearing a mask. It is no wonder that the infection rates are climbing rapidly in many parts of the US. This is my appeal to all my facebook friends; wear a mask out of kindness to others in case you are in the early stages of infection and don’t know it, and out of prudence lest you run into a “super-spreader” who is not taking any precautions.”
My husband and I, although not fans of masks, made a point of wearing them “out of kindness to others”. Oftentimes, we were met with piercing looks by those who, for their own reasons, refused to wear a mask in public. We didn’t judge, we just chose to mask up and keep our distance from those not wearing masks.
On August 1, Dan and Melanie welcomed their eighth grandchild, Ender into the world. We had welcomed Everett into our family on July 17th, and on July 18th our daughter, Carmen got married. Dan had been Carmen’s professor of World Religions when she attended seminary, so they once again sent congratulations.
On the prayer chain, in mid-October, we received word that we should pray earnestly for Dan. On October 9th, Dan tested positive for Covid, developed pneumonia, and was put on a ventilator. Dan had always been so healthy, so robust, so we felt confident he would be okay. But on November 4th, Melanie and the family had to make the heart-wrenching decision to remove him from life-support and he passed peacefully from this world and into his eternal reward. He died a few weeks shy of his seventieth birthday.
For a few days, we were just numb.
My husband has especially taken the passing of his friend very hard. Dan and Charles both have educational backgrounds in physics. Charles enjoyed speaking with him on all topics. Dan, an American, and Charles, a Canadian, often talked politics, sports, cars, and even as we had been praying for Dan while he battled Covid, we were praying about the U.S. election and how that political battleground would affect our lives here in Canada and in the States.
That’s the thing. Life goes on.
Over these days of heaviness and grief, I have thought a lot about this fragile life that God has given to each of us. Our days are numbered by God and who am I to challenge Him in determining why He would heal me last year of cancer, but not heal Dan of Covid? We are both statistics in the government’s eyes…me a survivor and Dan one of over 200,000 in the States who have died due to Covid. I will never look at the Covid numbers again with the same distracted indifference I did a week ago. Every time I put on my mask, I will not complain, but will think of Dan.
This morning, it is cold, but sunny here in Southern Alberta. Dan and Melanie often talked about their home in San Diego, where they lived before moving to Canada. My husband and I loved visiting San Diego, mostly because of the moderate weather there. I can’t help but think of them and San Diego this morning as the blustery, bitter winds here in the foothills are playing a factor in dropping the temperatures to – 15 degrees Celsius. I shiver and begin my quiet time praying for Melanie, their adult children, and eight precious grandchildren. We may be distant in miles, but close in heart. I long to be able to hug on Melanie, but we will watch the memorial service online this week, and celebrate Dan’s life. We take comfort that Dan is in the presence of our Saviour. He spent his life pointing others to Jesus and his life of faithfulness to that mission is now being rewarded.
That’s the thing. Eternal life goes on forever!