celebrities, music, obits

Rest in peace, Naomi Judd…

It’s been a very busy few days for Bill and me. As part of a tour, we left Florence yesterday for a night in beautiful Cortona, Italy. Our day was broken up by stops at a couple of wineries. We are going to visit a couple more places today, then head back to Florence for another night. Tomorrow morning, we will make our way to Vaduz for our last two nights of this vacation. It’s been a rather epic trip. I look forward to writing the whole story about it when we get home. I also look forward to sleeping in my own bed and seeing my dogs.

I hadn’t actually wanted to go on this trip, but it’s turned out to be pretty awesome, for the most part. I’m glad Bill convinced me. It just struck me how weird that sounds… my husband had to convince me to travel to Italy! But, in the wake of all of the crazy and bad stuff happening in the world, yes, it’s understandable why someone might be reluctant to go out and live it up. I think we’ve all been having hard times lately, although some people have definitely had it much worse than others have.

Last night, I read the very sad news about Naomi Judd, of The Judds. Ashley and Wynonna Judd both posted:

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,”

“We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public… We are in unknown territory.”

Naomi’s husband, Larry Strickland, also gave a statement: “Naomi Judd’s family request privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”

The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame today.

Like most others who have written about this news, the assumption is that Naomi Judd may have taken her own life. But that has not been confirmed, at this writing. When I heard the news, I was immediately reminded of The Judds’ story about their hardscrabble existence in eastern Kentucky. Wynonna and Ashley are a few years older than I am, so I could relate to them in the way I relate to my sisters. I admired how talented all three women were, and how they made it in the very difficult world of entertainment.

I remember reading about Naomi Judd’s work as a nurse before she became a star. Later, in 1991, she temporarily gave up performing because she had contracted Hepatitis C. I even remember reading a letter she wrote to the editors at People Magazine about her illness. She mentioned in the letter that she had been a nurse, and her statement came from a place of knowledge as a healthcare provider. That was impressive to me on yet another front. She never forgot her roots, which made her seem like someone with depth and character.

I also recall that the Judds had a reality show at one point, which highlighted the sometimes difficult relationships she had with her daughters. I also know that Wynonna’s own daughter, Grace Pauline Kelly, also had serious issues with drug addiction and spent some time in prison. She was apparently released last year. Her son, Elijah, seems to have been less troubled. He got married to his longterm girlfriend in 2020.

I never got to see the Judds perform, but I did see Wynonna at a short concert at an Army ball back in 2003. I have always respected the talented duo, and their music always brings back a lot of memories for me in my younger days. I don’t know what specific issues led to Naomi’s death, but I always thought of her as a very beautiful and gifted lady. I know she served as a role model to so many people, especially given how they all made it against the odds. Naomi, Wynonna, and Ashley were a feminine force to so many of us who grew up during the time when they were huge stars. They seemed to flourish together. I know her family is heartbroken to lose her.

One of my favorite songs by The Judds.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll hear more about what happened and why… not that it matters that much to anyone, except to satisfy their curiosity. Naomi was a beautiful, gifted woman, and my heart goes out to all who loved her. She gave a lot to the world and her legacy will continue every time someone listens to her sing.

As for me… I can chalk this up to one more celebrity who has passed away while I’ve been living in Europe. I’ve been over here when a lot of the world’s biggest stars have moved on to the next realm…Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin, etc. Now I can add Naomi Judd to the list. This may seem like a strange comment to make, but then, I’m kind of a strange person. 😉

I’m kind of ready for this trip to wind down. I love traveling, and vacations are always fun for me, but I’m also a bit of an introverted homebody. So this excursion will probably hold me for awhile until I need another trip.

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expressions, music, obits

April truly is the cruelest month for some people…

I woke up this morning to read a gorgeous, heartfelt, loving tribute my cousin, Clark, wrote for his wife, Chris. Today would have been their 38th wedding anniversary, had his wife not passed away on April 10, 2022. My cousin has spent the past fourteen months taking care of Chris, who had cancer that spread throughout her body. I know my cousin and his family have faced cancer too many times. What makes the timing of this loss especially cruel for this couple is that Chris passed just days before their daughter’s wedding. But, as my cousins in that part of my family are very devoted to their Christian faith, they did note that Chris probably had the best view of her middle daughter’s spring wedding.

I’m not the most religious person myself, but I like to think that Chris was watching her beautiful middle daughter walk down the aisle to her new husband. It’s a comforting thought. As we’re all in need of comfort lately, I see no harm at all in believing fervently that Chris is celebrating among the angels with other loved ones.

A few days ago, one of Bill’s high school friends also departed this life. His circumstances were very different than Chris’s. Mark decided to die on his own terms. I don’t know the exact details surrounding Mark’s death, other than that he committed suicide. He evidently left no clue to his family and many friends that he was choosing to die. Based on what’s on his social media, many people were left in total shock and grief. I see that in the days before he died, Mark tied up some loose ends. He spent time with friends and loved ones, and took pictures, which he posted on his profile.

While I am generally in favor of letting people exercise free agency and self-determination, I can’t help but wonder how those people who spent those last moments of Mark’s life feel about his decision. Granted, there is nothing they can do about it now, which probably makes this even worse for them. Maybe it’s pointless to be angry about Mark’s final actions on Good Friday. I can only speak for myself when I say that Mark’s decision probably would have devastated me, if I had known him better. As it was, I never met the man in person, although I know Ex knew him. I wonder if she knows what he did. I’m not about to tell her, of course… But I do wonder.

Even though I never met Mark, I have been affected by his decision to kill himself. Bill hadn’t seen Mark in many years, but he remembered him fondly and was still upset by his decision to kill himself. I have been here to comfort him, which means that Mark’s death touches me, too. Yes, there were tears shed for him in our house, if that matters to anyone.

Bill and I both understand that there were obviously things going on in Mark’s life that must have been too much for him to take. What went wrong was obviously none of our business… and, when it comes down to it, death is something we all have to face at some point. Maybe it gave Mark comfort to go out on his own terms. I am a bit concerned for his survivors, though… especially the ones who were there at the end. He apparently never let on to what he was planning, and he never gave them a chance to voice to him how they felt about it. Maybe they feel cheated or angry… although so far, I’ve seen nothing but an outpouring of love and good wishes. Personally, while I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes fantasize about doing what Mark did, I also think it was kind of a selfish thing to do. But then, I also remember that it was his life, and when it comes down to it, he wasn’t obligated to live for anyone. As far as I know, he had no children and was no longer married. His parents predeceased him. Maybe he just felt “done”. Or maybe he was very depressed or suffering from some ailment no one else knew about. I guess we’ll never know.

This morning, I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from North Carolina. People are hitting a post I wrote back in February about a man named Chad Carswell. I had read about him in the Washington Post. Mr. Carswell was making news for needing a kidney transplant, but refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. To be honest, I wasn’t, and am still not, very impressed by that choice. However, I do recognize that not getting a vaccine is his choice to make. It’s his life.

My post about his case was admittedly a little snarky and, perhaps, even kind of rude. It’s been interesting to see the delayed reaction to that post from early February. I can see that the people who have found it are sharing it and clicking it repeatedly, also hitting the disclaimer link, and even my travel blog. I’m not sure what they’re looking for. My mind hasn’t changed about that situation, although I still agree that people should always have the right to make choices. That right extends to everyone, though. A surgeon has the right to refuse to perform surgery on someone who isn’t medically qualified to have surgery. I don’t know what’s currently going on regarding Chad Carswell’s case. It’s none of my business, and frankly, doesn’t necessarily interest me at this point in time. But obviously, something has triggered people to read my post about him. I do wish him well, even if I disagree with his decision not to get vaccinated. Hopefully, his decision doesn’t lead to his loved ones and friends mourning his passing in April, too.

Anyway, since death is on my mind today, I decided to record a song. I actually discovered this very simple song by John Prine only this morning. I thought it was kind of poignant and fitting, given how many losses I have experienced this April and in past Aprils… For some reason, April really is the cruelest month. It’s the month when it seems like so many people have died senselessly in school shootings, bombings, wars, suicides, and due to illnesses… As I watch flowers and trees literally bursting into bloom on a daily basis, I can’t help but think of people who have departed life in April, or have had their lives completely changed or ruined due to someone else’s choices. So below is my rendering of “I Remember Everything”, which was apparently released after Prine’s untimely and gruesome death from COVID-19. It gave me some comfort to sing it, even if it may not be among my better performances.

Incidentally, Switzerland is a place where people can legally choose to die… and it does appear to be a heavenly place to be in some areas.

I tried to do another video featuring my homely, middle-aged, mom-bodied visage on camera, but I couldn’t get the video to sync properly with the audio. I don’t look particularly great on camera as it is, and wasn’t wanting the video to look like a poorly dubbed martial arts film from the 70s. I got tired of screwing with it and decided to just use some photos from our visit to Switzerland last summer. The shots are of Lakes Zurich and Lucerne, which I found very peaceful to look at. “I Remember Everything” is yet another song I could probably do on guitar if I put my mind to it. Maybe I’ll try that at some point. But for now, here’s my latest musical effort. I hope someone enjoys it. I’m sure John Prine would have appreciated the chance to get vaccinated against COVID, although I really don’t know how he would have felt about it. I do know that a lot of people miss him, including relatively new admirers like me.

Edited to add… It occurs to me that John Prine died in April, too… and I just discovered another one of his songs. This one was about what he planned to do after death. It made me smile, especially since the chords are super easy and I could play along with it. Wonder if this is what came to pass for him when he did finally die in 2020…

I can actually play guitar to this one, and it’s quite fun to do so!

Now, as it’s Thursday and we’re about to leave town, I better close this post and get on with my chores of the day, such as they are. Gotta vacuum, you know… and walk the dogs.

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family, obits, tragedies

April brings new life… and for some, the end of life.

Happy Easter, everybody. We have gorgeous spring weather so far today. I don’t plan to do much, since everything is closed, anyway. For a country with so many atheists, Germany sure does go nuts over religious holidays. Everything closes over Easter, from Good Friday until Easter Monday, although things are open on the intervening Saturday. This year, I didn’t plan ahead well enough. We ran out of dog food for Arran and contact lenses for me, after tomorrow. Fortunately, the stuff we need will probably be here on Tuesday. I hope I managed to sock away an extra pair of contacts in my luggage so I will be able to see before the delivery gets here. I wish I’d had my eyes lasered years ago.

Historically, for me, anyway, April tends to be a “cruel” month, even though it’s also usually very beautiful. So far, this year, April has been punctuated by grief… not necessarily for me, personally, but for people I know or am related to.

It started with a guy I knew in high school. I had a lot of classes with him, but we didn’t run in the same circles. I never knew until I read his obituary that he taught special education at our high school for some time. He eventually left that job, but then had brain cancer. That’s what killed him on March 31st, just a couple of weeks after his 50th birthday. On April 1st, a lot of people were posting about him on Facebook, writing about what a kind person he was. That made me wish I’d known him better, but he was more popular than I was, and people in my high school mostly thought of me as a weird person. So the cute, popular guys never talked to me. I’m probably less weird now… or, maybe they admit that they’re weird, too.

The next person to go was my cousin’s lovely wife. My cousin and his wife were married in 1984, when I was 12 years old. I wasn’t at the wedding, because it took place in Georgia, and I lived in Virginia. My cousin and his wife were a beautiful couple, but very religious and politically conservative, as are most of my Georgia based relatives (and I have quite a few). I was briefly among the Georgia folks myself, but we had to move to North Carolina after about 18 months of living there. I was sad to go. I enjoyed Georgia.

My cousin and his wife had three gorgeous daughters who are the epitome of “southern belles”. They’re a very close-knit family. When my cousin’s wife was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and the cancer then spread to her brain, the whole family got t-shirts made and wore them to support her before she went into surgery. They took pictures wearing the t-shirts and holding up signs with Bible verses and slogans. We heard that she had done fairly well with the surgery. Then, there was not much news at all.

I was a little surprised to read that she had passed away last week, since I hadn’t known that her illness had progressed so much. I mean, I know something about chronic illnesses such as cancer, and when I heard about her initial diagnosis, I figured she might not have much time. But her daughters appeared to be having the time of their lives, which is what I’m sure she wanted for them. My cousin’s eldest daughter posted a gender reveal video for the baby she’s expecting. Then, she announced her mother’s death. I didn’t know she was so ill, so I didn’t know she was near death. Last week’s news of her death came as a shock to me.

I knew her middle daughter planned to get married on April 16th. That daughter shared a photo of her hand holding her mother’s hand. I could only see the hand in the photo, but it was pretty obvious just from that photo of her hand that my cousin’s wife was very, very sick. Her skin was yellow and mottled with purplish red splotches, even around her fingernails, which were lined with the same red. I guess it was bruising of some kind.

She was a very beautiful woman who was much beloved by family and friends. She was also very religious and had strong faith in Christianity. Although I am nowhere near as religious as she was, I like to think of her joining those who went before her, to include my aunt and uncle, and my cousin, who was her sister-in-law, as well as all of the other people who were in her life I never knew. I’m sorry she had to miss her daughter’s wedding yesterday, but her daughter did say she thought her mom would have the best view… I hope she’s right. It looks like her daughter had a beautiful wedding, at least.

And finally, the third death was that of one of Bill’s friends from high school. I never met this man myself, but Bill has talked about him throughout our almost twenty years of marriage. Bill was kind of a shy introverted type when he was a teenager, and he went to a public high school in Houston where there were a lot of wealthy kids. Bill wasn’t wealthy, but he did have an interest in the military. He joined JROTC and made some friends, which unfortunately included his ex wife. But one of the guys he met was a guy named Mark who was a year older than he was. Mark was kind to Bill. He had a great sense of humor and a talent for art. Bill really liked him a lot, especially in the days when he wasn’t very confident about himself.

The years passed, and Bill lost touch with his friend… but then along came Facebook, and Bill reconnected with him. They didn’t communicate much on Facebook, mainly because Bill barely uses it and never posts. One of Bill’s other classmates, a guy who friended me for some reason, announced Mark’s sudden death yesterday. Apparently, Mark, who was divorced, had no children, and had recently lost his father (his mom died many years ago), decided to commit suicide on Good Friday.

Mark’s Facebook posts left no indication whatsoever that he was planning to kill himself. On Friday, he just posted “Guys, it’s been a slice”, accompanied by a collage with pictures of him at different stages of life. I told Bill that his high school friend had announced Mark’s death. Bill looked him up and read all of the posts by people who were devastated by Mark’s decision. So many people asked why he hadn’t reached out to them for help. A couple of people wrote that there was nothing they could have done… which is probably true in a case like this. Mark never left a clue of what he was planning. Unfortunately, it sounds like people will always wonder what drove him to make this decision, although a lot of people knew he had “demons”. But then, don’t we all?

It seems unconscionable that in this season of renewal– with flowers blooming and babies being born– some people have died before their time. All three of these people, who touched my life before they passed, were folks who might have been considered too young to die. While all three deaths could be considered very sad and tragic, I am especially sad for Mark. The other two had family with them when they passed, but Mark apparently died alone, and probably violently. As awful as it is for him, it’s even worse for whoever had to find him and whoever will be cleaning up the aftermath of Mark’s decision. I don’t know the exact method he used to kill himself, but he did own quite a few firearms. Bill told me that he owned some Russian pistols that he highly prized. So, it’s likely that one of his guns was the tool he used to end his life “on his terms”, as one of his friends put it.

I try not to look at suicide as a moral failing. I see it as more of a fatal response to depression, which is a real illness. Depression can be deadly. Maybe Mark could have been helped if he had reached out for help, but there really is no way to tell. And, in fact, there may have been something else going on that we didn’t know about… and will never know of. At least it looks like he had some good times during his last week. Many friends wrote about how they saw him this week. I wonder if Mark thought about how they would feel after he died… having spent time with him having lunch or drinking beer… and then finding out that he was planning to kill himself.

I didn’t know Mark, but I was there last night as Bill teared up over the news of his death. It just goes to show that everyone affects other people… even people they’ve never met in person. But as someone who has experienced depression and has felt suicidal, I understand that things might have seemed hopeless and pointless, and maybe he felt helpless to change anything. And one more talk with a friend or a doctor might have felt futile. So he made a decision that impacted a lot of people he never even knew.

This morning, Bill told me that he used to envy his friends. At one time, their lives seemed better than his was. I asked him what he thought of that notion today. He said, “I prefer my life.” I’m glad to hear that, especially since younger daughter shared an adorable video of her little daughter yesterday. What a blessing it is that Bill can get to know his grandchildren, even if it is just on video. Seeing her so happy and energetic gives me hope for the future. I’m glad I can be part of Bill’s future, especially as he awaits the birth of his second grandson in a couple of months.

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Biden, ethics, healthcare, law, obits

Texas and Maryland… diametrically opposed on the issue of abortion…

It’s Monday morning, and it’s already been an interesting day. First, I woke up to some sad news. My cousin’s beautiful wife, Chris, passed away. I knew she had been sick, and last year, there were updates on Facebook about her cancer journey. As I don’t live in the United States and am not that close to most of my family members, I didn’t know that her health had declined. Her daughter posted a beautiful message… and in just a few days, that same daughter will be getting married. She wrote that her mother will have the “best” seat at the wedding. I’m sure that brings her some comfort during this sad time.

My cousin and his family are mostly conservative Christians. I’m pretty certain that they are pro-life, when it comes to the abortion debate. It always fascinates when I think about how we share family, but turn out so differently. I used to be more conservative than I am now, but I have always felt the decision to be pregnant is a personal one. I have never been pregnant, but if I ever did get pregnant, I doubt I would choose to have an abortion. But I can’t say that I never would, because I can think of a lot of reasons why someone would make that choice– reasons that are no one else’s business.

In my case, I would probably choose abortion if I got raped, or if I had some kind of medical issue that made being pregnant especially dangerous. I would also consider abortion if the developing fetus had a condition that would make being born painful or cruel. And, having worked in maternal and child health, and having briefly done work with people who weren’t ready to be parents, I can see why abortion might be a wise choice for some. But… I can also see why some people are against abortion, and why some would not consider it under any circumstances. I just think this should be a personal and private choice. Fortunately, I am now at the end of my fertile time… not quite menopausal, but Aunt Flow is visiting a lot less often these days. It’s been nice not to have her around so often.

I am relieved that Mr. Biden’s Supreme Court Justice pick, Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson, has been confirmed to the Supreme Court and will be taking Justice Stephen Breyer’s place this summer, when he retires. I know the liberals are still a minority in the Supreme Court, but at least there’s one more vote that might make protecting women’s health more likely. I believe that abortion is women’s healthcare– especially when her mental or physical health is at stake due to pregnancy.

Within the last twelve hours, I read a couple of interesting news stories about abortion in two states. Yesterday, Gocha Allen Ramirez, the district attorney in Starr County, Texas, declined to prosecute 26 year old Lizelle Herrera, a woman who had been charged with murder over a self-induced abortion. Ms. Herrera was released from jail on a $500,000 bond, having spent three days locked up after it was discovered that she had performed an abortion on herself. Although Texas has some of the most restrictive and, frankly, brutal anti-abortion laws in the country, state law is very clear that pregnant people who get abortions cannot be criminally prosecuted. Instead, abortion providers are prosecuted. Texas also passed a law last September that allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who aids someone in getting an abortion. Texas physicians are also forbidden from giving abortion-inducing medication to any pregnant person who is more than seven weeks along.

I suppose one could argue that Ms. Herrera was an “abortion provider”, having given herself an abortion. But, as a pregnant person, she also couldn’t be prosecuted. I’m sure some of the backwards, women-hating lawmakers in Texas will do what they can to fix this oversight. They’d rather put young people like Lizelle Herrera in prison for practicing self-determination, instead of helping them avoid unintended pregnancies. They’d rather waste time and money in court over denying women the right to make decisions for their own healthcare and family planning than make having and raising children more affordable and feasible. The mind boggles.

Now Maryland, on the other hand, is showing a lot more compassion and common sense regarding the abortion issue. In that state, lawmakers have just passed a new law that, from July 1, allows nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and trained physician assistants to perform abortions. It will also require most insurance providers in the state to cover the cost of an abortion, at no cost to the resident, and directs the state to invest $3.5 million a year into abortion-care training. It should be noted that Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, vetoed this bill. However, Mr. Hogan’s veto was overruled by the House of Delegates, with a vote of 90 to 46. The State Senate voted 29 to 15 in favor of the new law.

I noticed a lot of people were reacting to this news. One woman wrote an angry comment about how this was a “vile” law. She was asked by many other people how many babies she’s adopted. Answer? None, of course. But she still thinks she should get to have an opinion about other people’s reproductive choices. Many folks, like me, think this is very good news. Others are angry about it. In the article I linked, there was this quote from Laura Bogley, the director of legislation for Maryland Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization:

“This is an example of what happens when you have a partisan monopoly in a state legislature.” She added, “The monopoly breeds extremism.”

Extremism? Has Ms. Bogley noticed Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court? Does she not see how Trump tried to stack the court with conservatives so that Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land since 1973, could be overturned? Does Ms. Bogley not understand that sometimes women get abortions for heartbreaking, tragic, health related reasons that should remain private and personal? It’s not always heartless, careless, “slutty” women who are seeking abortions. In fact, I would venture to guess that the vast majority who seek abortions do not fit that stereotype.

I might be more willing to support the pro-life viewpoint if we had better access to affordable birth control, healthcare, and childcare in the United States. But, the fact remains, that quality childcare remains extremely expensive and difficult to access for many people. And even if a person doesn’t have children, it’s very expensive to pay for healthcare, especially if one doesn’t have health insurance. Health insurance is also very expensive for many people. Even though former President Obama pushed through the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare), a lot of people remain uninsured. This is a problem that is going to take some time to fix… and it’s going to require cooperation from our esteemed elected officials. Sadly, too many of them are focused on blocking and foiling each other’s efforts to get laws passed or overturned, than they are in making life easier and more humane for everyone.

Still… I am surprised that Maryland is now among 15 states that is making abortion more accessible, instead of trying to ban it. I would much rather people avoid unintended pregnancies whenever possible, but when a situation comes up that threatens a person’s health– mental or physical– I think they should have the right to determine whether or not they wish to be pregnant. And making that decision should be entirely up to the person who has to live with the physical, mental, and emotional aftermath of being pregnant.

Maybe when we’re done with our Germany stint, Bill and I should think about moving to Maryland. It sounds like they’re heading in a good direction. I’ll be glad to give up my Texas driver’s license, either way. That state has gone straight to Crazy Town.

As for my cousin and his daughters, I wish them so much peace after their tremendous loss. Chris was a wonderful woman, and I know she was much beloved by many people. I know she was a woman of great Christian faith, so I suspect she’s in Heaven with her sister-in-law, my cousin Karen, who died in 2020, and my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Bob, who have been with the angels for awhile now. I’m sure there’s plenty of room at the table for Chris at the Heavenly party.

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celebrities, disasters, music, obits, YouTube

Hana Horka bets and loses on deliberately catching COVID-19…

Yesterday, I wrote that I’m really tired of reading and hearing about COVID-19, and all of the preaching related to the virus. That’s still a true statement. However, this morning I read a very sad news story about Hana Horka, a woman from the Czech Republic who deliberately exposed herself to COVID-19. Why? Because like Germany, the Czech Republic is making life harder for the unvaccinated by denying them entry to restaurants, theaters, saunas, and the like. Unfortunately, her decision cost her dearly. Instead of heading for the nearest spa, newly recovered from COVID-19, this woman– only 57 years old when she died– is headed to the Great Beyond– whatever that is.

The story goes that Hana Horka, who was a member of famed Czech band Asonance, was against being vaccinated. Her son, Jan Rek, said that it wasn’t because she believed in any ridiculous conspiracy theories. She didn’t think, for instance, that anyone getting a vaccine was going to be implanted with microchips or have their DNA changed in some way. Rather, Rek says that his mother simply preferred to get COVID and have “natural immunity” to the virus instead of getting a vaccine.

According to Rek, over the Christmas holidays, he and his father, who are both fully vaccinated, both tested positive for COVID-19. Horka determined that this would be her chance to finally contract COVID-19 and qualify for a health pass. So, instead of isolating herself and avoiding her sick family members, Hana Horka deliberately exposed herself to COVID. She looked forward to getting the virus and eventually recovering, which would allow her the ability to, once again, access fun venues that are denied to unvaccinated people in many parts of Europe. Having recovered from the virus, Horka would also have been allowed to perform with Asonance without having to be vaccinated.

At first, it looked like her plan had worked. Two days before she died, Horka posted on social media, “I survived… It was intense. Now there will be theatre, sauna, a concert… and an urgent trip to the sea”. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

On the morning of her untimely death, Horka was feeling better. She got dressed to take a walk. But then her back started to hurt, so she went to her bedroom for a rest. Ten minutes later, she was dead, having choked to death.

I obviously don’t know what happened to cause Horka’s sudden demise, but I have read that COVID can cause blood clots. Perhaps she had a pulmonary embolism, which I know can and does kill people very suddenly. But her son mentions choking, which doesn’t sound like the same thing. Anyway, it’s a very sad loss, especially for her family members and friends, but also for anyone who enjoyed her talents. Asonance is the oldest folk band in the Czech Republic. I have no doubt that Horka’s music was beloved by many of her fellow Czechs as well as others around the world.

Hana Horka at work with her band. The music is over for her, now. I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat listening to this.

Horka’s son, Jan Rek, says that he blames the many “anti-vax” groups across Europe who have been protesting vaccine mandates. Approximately 63 percent of the population in the Czech Republic are fully vaccinated. Many of those who aren’t vaccinated have been protesting and rebelling against the government’s new restrictions. There are also reports of anti-vax groups holding “COVID parties”, in much the same way people in the 1970s deliberately exposed children to chicken pox. People who can prove that they have recovered from COVID-19 don’t have to be vaccinated, and they aren’t subjected to the restrictions that punish those who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates.

Rek says the anti-vax groups have “blood on their hands.” According to the Daily Beast, Rek also added:

“I know exactly who influenced her… It makes me sad that she believed strangers more than her proper family… It wasn’t just total disinformation but also views on natural immunity and antibodies acquired through infection.”

Rek said that it was pointless to discuss the merits of getting the vaccine with his mom because the discussion would very quickly become “emotional”. I heard similar comments about one of my unvaccinated sisters from my own mom, who had expressed concern to me that she refused the shots. Mom told me that she couldn’t talk to my sister about her worries, because my sister would very quickly get upset with her. Rek says that now he’s telling his mother’s story, hoping that might persuade some people to get vaccinated. It occurs to me that my sister, who has spent too much time in North Carolina, has a habit of saying “Holy Hannah!” as an exclamation. I can’t help but realize the next time I hear her say that, I’ll probably think of “Holy Hana…” in honor of this singer, who may very well literally be holy now.

I know that yesterday, I complained about the pandemic preaching and lectures on social media. I still do find that an annoying practice. However, I think sharing stories like this one is a valuable practice. The main difference is, like anyone else who has had direct experience with COVID, Hana Horka was a living, breathing, singing person who made real and measurable differences in people’s lives. In Hana’s case, it was obviously with her music, but I know there were other gifts she had that other people enjoyed. She made an unfortunate choice, that ultimately led to her destruction. Her story isn’t a “stale” meme, and it’s not been passed around social media like a plate of microwaved hors d’oeuvres at a party. This is real news, and unfortunately, Hana Horka is just one more face to add to the tragic tapestry of COVID-19 deaths.

Look at how much Hana Horka loved to perform. I wish I had discovered this band in a different way… not because a member died of COVID, but because they make beautiful music.
I think it’s profoundly sad that Hana can no longer sing with her band, all because of a tiny, destructive, deadly virus.

So, as much as I am sick and tired of face mask preaching social media posts, COVID-19 lectures, and arguments among friends and family, I do appreciate stories about real people who made choices, and how those choices worked out for them in the end. I do pay attention to their stories and I don’t laud their deaths. Listening to the videos above, I know that Hana Horka’s death is a real loss to many people. I wish she had chosen differently, and I hope her story informs those who need to know about it. But obviously, people are going to do what they’re going to do, and they’re going to believe what they’re going to believe.

My heart goes out to Horka’s family… especially her son, who obviously grieves for her. I’m sure it’s especially heartbreaking for him to know that his mother got the virus from him and his father. He probably lives with an especially hellish form of survivor’s guilt over that. I wish peace and comfort for them all.

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