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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celebrities, complaints, condescending twatbags, love, marriage

Repost: Gene and Gilda… just stop already!

I am reposting this blog entry from August 31, 2016 because I think it’s a good topic. Gene Wilder died in 2016, though, so please don’t think this is new news. It’s not. I just think the overall subject matter is worth a reshare. Sometimes people don’t think. The screen shot is from a tribute to Gene and Gilda. I have no problem with people memorializing them now, since Gene has been gone for five years. I just thought it was wrong to do it just after his death, when he left a wife behind who had been with him for 25 years.

In case you didn’t know, actor, screenwriter, director and author Gene Wilder died a couple of days ago.  He had lived a very full life and was 83 years old at the time of his passing.  He’d also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which kept him out of the spotlight over the past few years. 

I first became familiar with Gene Wilder in the 80s.  He was still a fairly prolific actor back then.  I still have not seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Young Frankenstein, but I did see The Woman in RedStir Crazy, and Blazing Saddles.  I always thought he was funny and charming.  I may have to read his novels, too.  I bet they were excellent.  But I am not writing about Gene Wilder this morning because I want to memorialize him.

Gene Wilder died a married man.  His fourth wife, Karen, married him in 1991.  That was twenty-five years ago.  Karen stuck by him as he aged and got sick.  He was married to her longer than he was the three wives before him combined

But people seem to want to remember him with his third wife, Gilda Radner, the adorably funny comedienne who starred on Saturday Night Live in the 70s.  They were married in 1984 in the South of France and their marriage ended tragically five years later, when Gilda got a very aggressive form of ovarian cancer.  I read her book, It’s Always Something, when I was in high school.  It was published in 1989, the year she died.

I will not dispute that Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner were deeply in love.  I remember reading about their love in Gilda’s book.  And I’m sure, if there is a Heaven, the two of them embraced and celebrated when he finally reached the Pearly Gates.  Maybe they’re rejoicing being together again.  I really don’t know.

What I do know is that Gene Wilder has a surviving wife here on planet Earth.  And not even twenty-four hours after her husband’s death, a news article popped up about Gene and Gilda and their sad love story. 

I get that Gene Wilder is timely news right now.  I get that he and Gilda had a special love for each other.  But, in my opinion, the media could have waited awhile before they went ahead with this reminder of Gene’s past love life.  He has a widow now who is presumably grieving.  Where is the deference for her?  Couldn’t this reminder of Gene and Gilda have waited until the sheets had gone cold?

What kills me is that most of the comments I’ve read on that one story alone were very positive.  They were all about how deeply Gene and Gilda loved each other.  Only a few people spared a passing thought for Gene’s fourth wife, Karen, who must have also loved him very much.  Most people were writing things like “What a beautiful love story!”  “They are together again!”  “Such a positive story for a change!” (really?).  It just seems kind of thoughtless to me.

This issue is not new, though.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you may already know how I feel about a certain essay that regularly circuits the Internet.  It’s called “Paradox of our Time” and it often gets falsely attributed to George Carlin, who read it and thought it was a “sappy load of shit”.  The essay was, in fact, written by Dr. Bob Moorehead, a pastor.  In fact, this is what Mr. Carlin himself had to say about “Paradox of our Time”.

“PARADOX OF OUR TIME”

One of the more embarrassing items making the internet/e-mail rounds is a sappy load of shit called “The Paradox of Our Time.” The main problem I have with it is that as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a shit? Certainly not me.

I figured out years ago that the human species is totally fucked and has been for a long time. I also know that the sick, media-consumer culture in America continues to make this so-called problem worse. But the trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless. (See the preface of “Braindroppings.”)

Another problem I have with “Paradox” is that the ideas are all expressed in a sort of pseudo-spiritual, New-Age-y, “Gee-whiz-can’t-we-do-better-than-this” tone of voice. It’s not only bad prose and poetry, it’s weak philosophy. I hope I never sound like that.

But anyway, there is a version of “Paradox of our Time” circulating that adds a bit more to the essay.  Some uninformed jerk decided to turn the essay into a love story by adding that Carlin wrote it right after his first wife, Brenda Carlin, died of liver cancer.  Then, they add that Carlin quickly followed her to the grave.

A “Weird Al” Yankovic song about this very issue.

Folks, Brenda Carlin died in May 1997 of liver cancer.  George Carlin died in June 2008.  And guess what?  He had remarried!  His second wife, Sally Wade, even published a book about their relationship.  They were together for about ten years.  “Paradox of our Time” was written in 1998, a year after Brenda Carlin died.  But it was not inspired by her, nor was it written by George Carlin.

Now… I don’t know Sally Wade.  I did read her book about life with George, though, and she strikes me as a pretty tough cookie.  Still, I’m sure it was annoying to see her husband not only associated with a piece of writing that he thought was a “sappy load of shit”, but to also see people fabricating a false history.  George Carlin did NOT die of a broken heart right after his first wife died, though he did die of heart failure about eleven years later.  To fabricate a tall tale about how he “followed Brenda to the grave” is just disrespectful, not just to George, but also to his second wife, Sally.

I understand that people want to admire their heroes.  People also love a good story.  We’d like to think that love is forever and that when someone’s first true love dies, he or she is waiting for them up in Heaven.  And maybe that’s what will happen– or maybe not.  But if someone whose first love dies has the good fortune to love again, isn’t it more respectful and kind to pay deference to the person left behind when he or she passes?  Maybe Karen came after Gilda and wasn’t as famous as Gilda was, but she stuck around for 25 years and presumably took care of Gene Wilder when he needed her the most. 

In the case of Gene and Gilda, I would say it’s fine to write about their relationship at some point.  They were genuinely in love with each other and I don’t think it’s wrong to wax poetic about that.  But I don’t think it’s appropriate to romanticize Gene and Gilda when Gene hasn’t even been dead 24 hours and has a grieving widow now acutely dealing with his death.  It’s just tacky and rude, and shows no consideration for his wife. 

But… in the interest of not being a hypocrite, I will not go around flaming the people who do write about Gene and Gilda “together again at last”, even if it does make me shake my head…  When it comes down to it, people have the right to express themselves, even if they’re being tacky and rude in the process.

Edited to add in 2021: Here is a link to an essay written by Karen Wilder, Gene Wilder’s widow, on what it was like to care for him at the end of his life.

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ethics, healthcare, politics

A most unproductive attitude…

Last night, a Facebook friend shared the following meme.

Hmmm… I’m not sure this works.

I understand people not wanting to see medical care being “wasted” on the non-compliant. It’s heartbreaking to read stories about people with cancer being turned away from hospitals because of unvaccinated people taking up beds as they die of COVID-19. I get that, in spite of overwhelming evidence that the vaccines help prevent severe illness and hospitalization, some people just aren’t on the bandwagon yet. They have this idea that there’s a conspiracy going on and that Democrats are trying to grab power and quash individual liberties.

I’m also not so naive that I don’t understand the concerns of people who are against mask and vaccine mandates. Personally, I don’t like the idea of being forced to wear a mask or be vaccinated against my will. But I also don’t like the idea of being hospitalized, helplessly gasping for air while my husband wrings his hands in anguish. I may not mind exiting the world as soon as possible, but COVID-19 is not the way I would like to go. So I was all for getting vaccinated as soon as I could, which in my case, was in May and June. I will also willingly get a booster. And while I still hate masks and find them depressing to look at and wear, I do cooperate.

Every day, I read another story about someone who was preaching against the vaccines getting COVID-19 and dying. Last week, it was conservative radio talk show host, Phil Valentine. Like several others before him, Phil Valentine had the false idea that COVID-19 is a hoax. He wrote on his blog that if he caught it, he’d have “way less than one percent” chance of dying. Sure enough, on July 11, 2021, Mr. Valentine announced that he had COVID-19. But he was upbeat, and vowed to be back on his show within a day or two.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” [Valentine] wrote. “Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow, but I may take a day off just as a precaution.”

Within two weeks, Valentine was hospitalized and in serious condition. His radio station, Nashville based 99.7 WTN, announced that Valentine had changed his mind about the vaccine and was urging people to get the shot(s). Unfortunately, it was too late for the late radio talk show host. He died this past Saturday. Interestingly enough, I see that Valentine was born in Nashville, North Carolina, and died in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been ventilated since July 28th, all to no avail.

So anyway… after reading yet another tragic story about a dead vaccine skeptic, I had a look at the comments. A woman named Nicole wrote this:

Comments here just show how fine the line is between dems and reps…as in there in no line at all. Hateful people hate, no party affiliation necessary.

At this writing, Nicole’s comment has over 1100 reactions, some of which are “laughing”. I honestly don’t see what’s so funny about someone else dying of a virus. Many people also responded to Nicole in a rude and disparaging way. I noticed that she kindly and patiently answered some of the people who “laughed” and “raged” at her, preaching about how they no longer had any “sympathy” for people like Phil Valentine. My heart went out to her, so I wrote this:

I get it. I feel the same way. Whether or not people want to acknowledge it, he had loved ones who are grieving. I have a hard time accepting people on a moral high horse when they are literally laughing and cheering about a man’s death. I am vaccinated and believe in science over foolishness, and I get tired of the craziness spewed by the ignorant. But I also hate seeing how mean people have become, especially as they preach to others about compassion and forbearance.

Thanks for being brave enough to speak up. I am with you.

The truth is, Phil Valentine is not going to read or care about the hateful comments. But he’s got loved ones and friends who are seeing all of this stuff. I don’t think reading hateful, derisive, mean spirited comments are going to convince them to change their views. Moreover, I also don’t think the idea of denying medical care to people with communicable diseases is the best way to convince cooperation. All being “mean” does is shut down communication and make people feel angry… and hopeless.

Also… by denying medical care to people with COVID-19, we would simply be prolonging the pandemic. COVID-19 is contagious. Even if a person is totally recalcitrant and belligerent about COVID-19, they can still spread the disease to others if they get it. Not helping that person is only going to put other people at risk. Some of those at risk will include children, elderly people, those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and those who are vaccinated, but immunocompromised. So, I would never be onboard with denying medical care to people with COVID. I think that attitude only puts other people at risk. I do, however, understand the sentiment. It’s frustrating to see so many people not understanding the very serious risk COVID poses to everyone and not wanting to do their part to end the pandemic.

What I think could eventually happen if things don’t get better soon, is that non-compliant people will be arrested and either forced into isolation, or compelled to accept care and vaccination. I know that’s a chilling thought for people, but it has happened before with other pandemics and it still happens with certain communicable diseases. I have seen that it’s starting to happen in certain countries, like Singapore, where personal liberty is not as important as the welfare of the whole community.

For example, when I was getting my MPH/MSW at the University of South Carolina, I was classmates with a woman whose field placement was working with people who were being detained because they had tuberculosis and refused to get treatment. These folks were not being held by law enforcement, per se. They were “locked up” because they had a communicable disease and would not cooperate with public health authorities by either isolating, or getting treatment.

I remember my classmate talking about what it was like to deal with these folks who, for one reason or another, decided that they would not voluntarily take the very powerful antibiotics used to treat TB. I distinctly recall her telling our class that the people were “pissed off”. And yet, there they still were, locked up, not necessarily because they had committed a crime, but because they put other people at risk.

Here’s a more recent example. About seven years ago, Ebola was the communicable disease that was in the news. A nurse named Kaci Hickox had returned to the United States from Sierra Leone, where she had been caring for people with Ebola. She supposedly had a fever upon arrival to the United States, so she was forced to quarantine in New Jersey for three days. She then returned to her then home state of Maine, where she was requested to self-isolate at home, which she also refused to do, as she had tested negative for Ebola.

A year later, Hickox sued then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former state Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and other Health Department employees for false imprisonment, violation of due process and invasion of privacy. She claimed that there were no medical or epidemiological grounds to hold her. Interestingly enough, Chris Christie is a Republican. At the time she was in the news, Hickox was “loathed by Republicans.” The late Rush Limbaugh had harsh words for her after Hickox returned to Maine, where she very publicly flouted voluntary quarantine. Meanwhile, she got praise from more liberal outlets.

“Is this not a little bit sanctimonious?” Limbaugh said at the time. “I mean, here you volunteer and you let everybody know, by the way. … ‘I am a good person. I have volunteered to go to Africa, and I am helping Ebola patients. Look at me. See me? I am a good person.’ You come back, ‘I have just returned from Africa helping Ebola patients, and you are not going to quarantine me so that I can’t be noticed.’”

Hickox eventually settled the lawsuit, and new protections for quarantined travelers were introduced. I’m sitting here shaking my head, though. In 2014, Republicans were screaming for Ebola quarantines and Democrats were lamenting the potential loss of civil liberties. And now, in the COVID era, the opposite is happening. It really shouldn’t be controversial or political, though. It’s a matter of basic decency and consideration for other people, isn’t it? I guess some people are fine with denying other people their civil rights, as long as it doesn’t affect them personally. And some people are fine with flouting public health rules, if it’s they who are being asked to quarantine.

I wrote about Kaci Hickox on my old blog. At the time, I was of a mixed mind about her situation. I was definitely understanding her points about civil liberties. However, at the same time, my background in public health made me concerned about her risk of spreading a deadly disease to Americans. I looked up Kaci Hickox last night. I see that she, too, has a master’s degree in Public Health. I wonder how she feels about COVID-19. In this article from March 2, 2021, a reporter states that Ebola is deadlier than COVID-19 is. That was before the virus had mutated to what it is today. Moreover, according to the article, unlike like COVID-19, asymptomatic people don’t spread Ebola. But Ebola is still a very nasty disease, just as COVID has proven to be.

Anyway… I just think that we should all try to be as compassionate as possible. I don’t think it’s ethical to deny medical care to people, even if they behave in a foolish or offensive manner. I get being offended or annoyed by the willfully ignorant. God knows, I post all the time about my irritation with people who have unhelpful attitudes. But when it comes to getting people to cooperate, I don’t think it’s helpful to laugh at them as they die or express hatred for them. All that does is divide people. It’s in everyone’s best interests to be cooperative. At least for now, people still have the right to choose whether or not they will be vaccinated. It would be good if some of those who hesitate figure it out for themselves that not getting the shot could really mess up, or even end their lives.

As for Phil Valentine… it is a shame that he didn’t comply sooner. But at least at the end of his life, he tried to change hearts and minds. For that reason, I think people should be kinder regarding his memory. When it comes down to it, this issue is really NOT about politics. It’s about health, and potentially life and death.

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Biden, disasters, healthcare, lessons learned, politicians, politics, poor judgment

Incognito immunization idiocy equals misery in Missouri and elsewhere…

This morning, I woke up to a private message from my Facebook friend, Marguerite. She sent me a link to an article that appeared in The Atlantic. It was about people in Missouri who are choosing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but wish to do it incognito. Why? Because they’re afraid if their family and friends find out they’ve gotten immunized, they’ll be disowned or unfriended or whatever.

There are so many people coming to Ozarks Healthcare who don’t want to be recognized for getting the shot(s) that they’ve actually had to make a private setting. People are showing up in disguises and begging healthcare workers not to tell anyone they’ve gotten vaccinated. Healthcare workers aren’t supposed to be telling people about people’s private healthcare business, anyway. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, though.

I guess I’ve been away from my family and American friends for a really long time now… Maybe watching Bill being “disowned” by his children has also made me realize that being cast out of the family isn’t necessarily a death sentence. One can survive being ostracized by friends and family. But contracting the Delta variant of COVID-19 certainly could be a death sentence for a lot of people. I just can’t wrap my head around the sheer lunacy of people who are still denying that this is a REAL illness that is KILLING people.

Shared by the ex wife of one of my Trump loving relatives… It’s sheer stupidity on an epic level.

Missouri, in particular, is dealing with surging COVID-19 infections. Yesterday, I saw a video about Daryl Barker, a 31 year old married man and father who was vehemently against getting vaccinated against COVID-19. He contracted COVID-19, and it got bad enough that he had to go to the hospital. The video below, which was made last month, shows Barker in his bed wearing oxygen and hooked up to wires while his wife, Billie, and son, Brody, “camp outside” at Barker’s hospital room window. Unbelievably, Daryl Barker’s wife says she’s still against the vaccine, but concedes that she’d rather deal with side effects from the immunization than get the illness. Billie knows of what she speaks, because the virus has run through Barker’s extended family, and she has had it herself. Once Daryl gets well– if it actually happens– they plan to get the shot(s).

So why are people denying the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines? Daryl Barker says he was against getting the shot(s) because “we’re a strong conservative family.” What exactly does Barker mean by “strong”? Is he saying he “strongly believes” in conservative values, and that somehow means not getting vaccinated? Or does he mean being he’s “strong” in that being conservative somehow makes him impervious to the virus? Clearly, he was wrong on that count. When he arrived at the hospital, which was almost completely full, Barker was critically ill. He was given just a 20 percent chance of survival!

When did Republicans become so anti-vaccine in the first place? I always thought anti-vaxxer types were “crunchy” people who believed in avoiding putting “unnatural” things in their bodies? How did avoiding vaccines become affiliated with being Republican? Hell, even Donald Trump got the vaccine after he and Melania got sick last year. If he hadn’t been POTUS and gotten amazing medical care, he might have died from COVID-19. Yet somehow, Trump supporters are not getting the vaccines themselves. It makes no sense to me. COVID-19 has NOTHING to do with U.S. politics. It’s a global public health crisis that is affecting and killing people worldwide.

My friend Marguerite lives in California and we “met” through the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. I have never met her offline, but we seem to have some things in common, like our mutual love for musical theater and other music. We also shake our heads at the sheer lunacy of what’s going on in the United States right now. I wonder if I will recognize the United States when I go back there. It seems like a very different place to me now.

I didn’t used to think of Republicans as any less intelligent than Democrats or any other political group. In fact, when I was growing up, it seemed like Democrats were less likely to be “smart” about things. Maybe it’s because of the environment I lived in; southeastern Virginia is chock full of conservative types. It wasn’t until I joined the Peace Corps that I started meeting a lot of “liberals”, and it took some time after that experience that my political leanings started shifting. I think I’ve always been somewhat socially liberal. I used to be much more fiscally conservative than I am now.

It’s shocking to me to read comments from so-called conservatives about vaccines on social media. Some people are incredibly misinformed. I totally get being worried about vaccine injury and side effects. There are potential risks to anything a person does, and some people have legitimately suffered ill effects and even died from the vaccines. But I can’t imagine how a person, looking rationally at the risks of being vaccinated versus getting the virus, would assume catching COVID-19 would be safer. Many people have gotten immunized and they’re really fine afterwards. The vaccinated people who get COVID aren’t getting nearly as sick, either.

In all seriousness, though… if this incognito immunization idiocy keeps up, we won’t have to worry too much about Trumpers. A lot of them will either be debilitated by COVID long hauler syndrome or they’ll be fucking dead! I read another sad story yesterday in The Washington Post about how COVID is devastating families, not just because of the loss of loved ones, but also because of the financial consequences of being so sick.

33 year old Lisa Grim, an Ozark, Missouri based mother of two, lost her 37 year old husband, Alan, to COVID-19 last October. When her husband died, Lisa lost her ability to pay mortgage on their home. She and her sons, 10 year old Ralphie, and 4 year old Walker, were forced to move into a crappy apartment. It took over a month for her to find the apartment, which is 35 miles from her house. She rented it sight unseen, because the landlord was the first one in twenty she called who actually responded.

Lisa Grim is drowning in medical debt– outstanding bills from her husband’s illness, as well as an emergency room bill of her own, when the stress of her crumbling life got to be so bad that she had a full on panic attack and a severe case of gastroenteritis. She has legal bills, and both she and her older son are in therapy. Her husband died without a will, and left her just $42,000 in life insurance. She has credit card bills, too.

I have a lot of empathy for Lisa Grim. I remember how it was for Bill and me as he recovered from his disastrous first marriage and subsequent divorce. But in our case, we could work together and there weren’t children of our own to consider. Lisa Grim is dating now, but she still has two young children, and somehow she’s got to support them as she climbs out of the huge financial hole COVID-19 has wrought in her life.

I get that people don’t want to cooperate with Joe Biden, because some people wrongly believe that he “stole” the election from Donald Trump. Somehow, these folks can’t understand how a normal person wouldn’t want Trump to be president anymore. I really don’t get why that is… I mean, I can understand wanting to vote for the candidate who represents one’s political preferences. But Donald Trump is a just a walking humanitarian nightmare. He’s literally a criminal. Why not insist on someone basically ethical, yet still conservative? And Trump got the vaccine. I see a lot of conservatives holding Trump and his ilk up as people to emulate. Why don’t they emulate one of Trump’s better decisions and get vaccinated?

We have people clamoring to go back to school and work, but they don’t want to have to get vaccinated. And they don’t want masks to be required. I completely understand not liking the masks. I hate them, too, and I hope someone comes up with something that works better in controlling the spread of the virus. I still mostly stay at home because I don’t like wearing masks. I do wear the masks when they’re required, though, because this isn’t a political hill for me to literally die upon. COVID-19 is not the way I want to go out of this life. There is no doubt whatsoever that COVID-19 is real, and it’s killing people in heartbreaking ways. Those who are left behind are bereaved and broke… it’s senseless, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

I truly don’t understand why some people are afraid to tell their friends and families that they’re being vaccinated. I don’t see why the “freedom loving” crowd is concerned about the personal decisions their friends, family members, and associates make. I get not liking to be lectured or condescended to, and I don’t like the insulting and all knowing attitudes people on both sides have regarding COVID and vaccinations. But really… watch the videos and read about some of the people who have perished because of this virus.

Even conservatives who have fallen ill are changing their tunes… A lot of them want to be vaccinated when it’s too late. Some have admitted that they made the wrong decision. A few, who have ended up dying, have said that if they recovered, they would get the shot(s) and be a voice of reason for the holdouts. Dick Farrel, a now deceased radio host and coronavirus vaccine skeptic, was one of those people who claimed he would have made amends, given the chance. But sadly, the vocal Trump supporter is now pushing up daisies. I’m sure Mr. Farrel would advocate for being an example to his conservative friends who still think this is a hoax or a joke of some sort.

It’s long past time for people to wake up and do the right thing. If a person’s family and friends have a problem with his or her choice to get vaccinated, they quite simply need to get over it. Time is running out.

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