This story is based on memories from last year when my 90-year-old mother contracted COVID-19. Last month we celebrated her ninety-first birthday, for which I’m thankful, but we were not able to give her any hugs. My prayer is that we can all hug again soon.
Lost! I woke up in a panic, filled with guilt because I had fallen asleep before finding the little girl who bolted out of my class.
Why was that child in my classroom? She was too young to be in high school. After searching and searching, I kept falling asleep and waking in a panic—still dreaming.
Did this have anything to do with the doctor’s testing my 90-year-old mother for COVID-19?
First, Mom Fell
Two weeks earlier, Mom’s nursing home called to say she had fallen during the night. We hadn’t been allowed to see her for weeks because of COVID-19 restrictions.
My mom was like an energizer tortoise—she had slowed down quite a bit, but she just kept going in spite of the fact that she had Parkinson’s, dementia, and diabetes. When the call came, it felt like a death sentence. Yes, she had broken her hip. Surgery was the only option.
My sister had always been the strong one. She worked in a nursing home when she was younger. I was the wimpy artist, who fainted at the sight of blood, and was overly sensitive to, well—just about everything. Since my sister had a heart condition, we agreed I should be the one to go see Mom if any visitors were allowed.
After lead-footing it the 82 miles down to the hospital, I was too late. They turned me away. I returned home and called to check on mom. Then the hospital said I could stay with mom as long as I agreed to remain in her room. Stretched thin, but thankful, I made the long trek back.
With my heart in my throat, I saw my mom for the first time in five weeks. I wanted to embrace her, but instead I washed thoroughly, held her hand, and told her I loved her. Mom did well, and after three days, they sent her back to the nursing home.
A week later, we received another devastating phone call: Mom might have only a few days to live if she didn’t start eating better.
And, the next morning, the nursing home discovered their first COVID-19 case, and they were testing Mom for the deadly virus.
I was a mess—emotionally exhausted. That night the stressful dreams started, and I kept falling asleep, even in my dreams.
Lost in My Dreams
Overwhelmed by grief and guilt, how could I sleep while mom was suffering so? I should have been able to prevent this. How could I let her die alone? Was my mom the lost little girl in my dreams I couldn’t get to? Or was it me? The little girl in the dream, my joy, my mom—all seemed lost, and I was too tired and sad to keep searching.
At that point, the nursing home would allow us to visit Mom at the “end of life” stage. As I thought about it, I feared losing not only Mom, but my older siblings. Three of them were in the “high risk” group, with heart conditions, diabetes, and other health problems. An avalanche of guilt and fears threatened to bury me.
The next day we got the call that Mom tested positive for the virus. Now none of us would be allowed to visit Mom, not even at the “end of life.”
“It’s over,” I thought, and I took a step toward acceptance.
I just started hoping Mom would go peacefully and maybe her dementia would help this time—maybe she wouldn’t realize that none of us were with her at the end.
A Positive Test
With the news of Mom’s positive test result, the stressful dreams returned.
I dreamed my high school students were showing up at my house in the middle of the night in desperate need of a place to stay, but I was afraid to let them stay with me, afraid they might get the virus.
Almost miraculously, Mom beat COVID-19 and was moved back into a regular room at the nursing home. The doctor said I probably contracted a mild form of the virus, but I recovered completely.
A COVID Dream, a Thanksgiving and a Prayer
In my dreams, I could never quite measure up. I struggled alone, and it led to exhaustion and hopelessness. But slowly, I began to find the lost girl by learning to breathe, to create, to let the emotions out, and to accept help from others. Through acceptance, I began to find the runaway girl in my dreams.
I am so thankful my mom recovered and so sad for all who have lost loved ones in recent months. It makes no sense that my mom survived and so many younger, healthier people have been lost. Why did my Mom beat COVID? The reasons may never be clear, but Psalms 3:5 says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (NIV). I don’t understand it all, but I choose faith over despair.
This time in history reminds me of Pearl Buck’s story, “The Big Wave.” Though the people lost so many family members, instead of despair, they chose to treasure life so much more after the loss. Grieving is important and necessary, but I pray we can also see that “life and love are stronger than death.”
What is helping you through these difficult times? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!
I’m an artist who loves to write. If you’d like to get to know me better, please follow me on social media.
My Blog: susanebrooks.com
Instagram @sebrooks81 (Mostly Art)