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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religion, scams

Pastor Greg Locke demands his followers unmask, or he’ll throw them out of his church!

I highly recommend listening to this mood music… It sums things up nicely.

A couple of days ago, one of my Facebook friends shared with me a sad story about Pastor Greg Locke. The link she sent was from Newsweek, but I have a subscription to the Washington Post, and there’s an article about this incident in that publication. So I’m going to base today’s fresh content on that piece.

So who is Pastor Greg Locke?

As I discovered in my 2018 post on this guy— Greg Locke is a self-described pastor from Tennessee. He runs the Global Vision Bible Church (GVBC). Over the years, he’s said and done some controversial things that have put him in the news. When I wrote about him in 2018, he was in the news because he had referred to Stormy Daniels as a “hooker” as he praised the orange turd, Donald Trump, as the president. Locke had tweeted his disdain for Daniels and was soon thoroughly shaded and schooled by a Catholic priest.

After reading about that incident in 2018, I did more digging about Locke and read about his sad situation with his ex wife, Melissa, at whom he had cursed and fat shamed. Locke didn’t sound very “Christ-like” to me, and that was pretty much what I expressed in that old post. Then I promptly forgot about him and went on with my life.

Now, Locke is back on the radar, because he recently told his “flock” in his Nashville area church that if they “start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask [them] to leave…” Locke, who is 45 years old, has repeatedly and falsely claimed that COVID-19 is a hoax. It seems that Locke’s followers are inclined to agree with him. His declaration on Sunday of his intent to ban mask wearers at his church was met with cheers and applause. Below is a video of the live streamed service that happened on July 25, 2021.

At 1 hour and 10 minutes, he launches into an anti-liberal rant. He sounds like a complete lunatic. At 1 hour and 13 minutes, he starts going off about COVID and talking about asking people to leave if they come masked.

Well… as I have written many times in this blog, I am a big believer in personal rights and liberties. And if Greg Locke thinks that COVID-19 is a hoax, nothing I can say or do will change his mind. But I do think he ought to take a good look at fellow pastor, Rick Wiles, who called COVID-19 a hoax. Wiles eventually caught the “hoax COVID-19 virus” and got very sick. He was ill enough to be hospitalized, and his followers were implored to “pray for him” as he got treatment for that “hoax COVID virus” that he refused to be vaccinated against, because vaccines are apparently a plot to kill people.

And he might want to read up on Stephen Harmon, a member of the Hillsong megachurch in California. Mr. Harmon was 34 years old and thought he knew better. In June, he tweeted to his 7000 Twitter followers “Got 99 problems but a vax ain’t one…” Next thing you know, Harmon was being treated for the virus in an L.A. area hospital. Sure enough, that “hoax virus” killed Mr. Harmon in what should have been the prime of his life. In his last days, Harmon was begging for prayers. Posting pictures from his hospital bed, Harmon pleaded “Please pray y’all, they really want to intubate me and put me on a ventilator.” His last tweet was posted last Wednesday, as he had decided to go on the ventilator. He wrote, “Don’t know when I’ll wake up, please pray.”

Even as he lay in his bed, gasping for breath, Harmon still said he wouldn’t be vaccinated. He said his religious faith would protect him. That turned out to be untrue.

In March 2020, Pastor Landon Spradlin went to New Orleans to preach during Mardi Gras. He said he wasn’t worried about the coronavirus. He said the concern about it was “hysteria”. Sadly, Spradlin was wrong about COVID-19, and he died a month after his Mardi Gras trip. Spradlin was described as a “great man” who was musically gifted. I can almost excuse him for his premature exit, as he got sick very early in the pandemic. But these other guys– well, they’ve had a year to see just how “fake” the COVID virus is. Where did those 650,000 dead Americans go? Roswell, New Mexico?

I really do think people should think and act for themselves. I am hesitant to agree with measures to force people to do the right thing, even though I realize some people won’t do what they should unless they are compelled. I do think it’s sad, though, that charismatic people– men– are spreading lies and conspiracy theories about this deadly virus. I hate masks. I really do. I don’t think masks are going to save people from COVID. BUT– I do think that vaccinations are essential. I base that belief on a basic knowledge of science and trust in people who have spent their whole lives studying medicine.

I don’t listen to loudmouthed idiots like “Pastor” Greg Locke, who allegedly hit, spit on, fat shamed, and drove into a women’s shelter his ex wife, Melissa, while he dated her former best friend. This is not a Christ-like or “godly” man. This is a man who is hooked on power and money. Recent history has shown me that I’m right to trust scientists and physicians over so-called “holy men” like Greg Locke, who screams like a banshee, paces back and forth, denies science, and praises people like Donald Trump. According to the Washington Post,

Locke’s evangelical church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, has grown during the pandemic, CNN reported. The pastor’s controversial commentary on covid and the 2020 presidential election has attracted far-right churchgoers.

During a sermon last month, Locke called President Biden a fraud and “a sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel,” a reference to QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims.

He has also falsely claimed the pandemic is “fake,” the death count is “manipulated,” and the vaccine is a “dangerous scam.”

And the pastor has preached misinformation about the vaccine, including falsely claiming it’s made of “aborted fetal tissue.”

I remember when Locke was in the news having just split from his ex wife, Melissa. He claimed that she was lying about what happened, and that he was the innocent party. I watched the tearful video he posted, which was later taken down, in which he cried about her so-called lies about his character. Maybe I would have given him the benefit of the doubt if I didn’t see so many instances that point to his lack of wisdom and poor character. I was raised to believe that Christianity is about love for other people and peace, not screeching about politics and denying science.

I think Greg Locke is a fool, and I feel sorry for his followers, some of whom will foolishly continue to follow his nonsense, get sick, and perhaps pay with their lives. I know some people have no pity for followers of bullshit, but I think people who purport to be leaders should be held responsible for leading people astray. And Greg Locke, is leading a flock, much to their detriment. Hopefully, a few of them will wise up and find another church.

COVID-19 is not a joke; it’s not a hoax; and unless you’re ready to meet your maker, you’d better have some common sense about this. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. If Locke doesn’t watch his step, he’s going to wind up in a hospital bed or a coffin. Or maybe it will just be his hapless and clueless followers who’ll suffer as Locke continues to peddle snake oil to the uneducated and ill informed. It reminds me of a scene from Little House on the Prairie.

These kinds of charlatans are still around…

Pastor Locke is worse than this so-called faith healer, isn’t he?

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mental health, nostalgia, obits

When the mourning is done already…

2020 has been one hell of a year for a lot of people. For me, personally, it was not my worst year, but I know that for many people, it has been the most challenging, difficult, and horrible year ever. Much of the worst of it has been punctuated by profound loss, causing large numbers of people to mourn. People have lost their jobs, their ability to travel, their homes, their social lives, and, in some cases their health or even their lives. All of this loss, which has occurred on a worldwide scale, has affected the collective mood of the planet.

Between us, Bill and I have lost three family members since October. None of the people who died lost their lives to COVID-19. Two had cancer, and one had pneumonia that turned into septicemia, complicated by osteoporosis. There was a thought that maybe Bill’s dad had also had COVID-19, but he was tested for that and it was negative.

I think being so far away from my friends and family has made mourning somewhat less challenging. Since 2014, I’ve lost my dad, four uncles, an aunt, a cousin, a cousin’s spouse, and my father-in-law. I lost my dad only weeks before we moved over here. I remember, when I went to Natural Bridge for his memorial a few months after his death, I thought to myself that I was probably seeing some of my family members for the last time. Sure enough, that is what came to pass.

Bill, on the other hand, is newer to grieving family members than I am. He lost his Aunt Betsy last year. Last month, he lost his dad. I remember him telling me in the early years of our marriage, that he dreaded losing his father. He actually teared up a bit as he talked about it. But now that it’s happened, he’s not totally depressed.

The trouble is, he says he feels a little bit of shame for not feeling “sadder” than he does. He said he’d cried more over losing our dogs. I don’t know how or why this happened, but I blurted out, “I think maybe it’s because you mourned your dad many years ago, when your parents got divorced.” Bill’s eyes widened in surprise. It was a new thought to him. It was a new thought to me, too. I think it was a sudden flash of insight that came to me as I realized that he hadn’t lived with his dad since the late 60s and was never able to forge a very close relationship with him, even though he loved him very much.

If I were to die tomorrow, Bill would probably be devastated. We live together, so my presence would be acutely missed. We’re also very close friends as well as partners, and we are a major source of support to each other. But I think that sometimes losing family members with whom you don’t share a close, physical connection can be somewhat less traumatic. A lot depends on how bonded you are to them. And again, living far away from your friends and family can dilute that grief somewhat. Because the pain of missing someone tends to be sharpest at the time of the breakup.

At about this time in 1993, I lost my pony, Rusty. He had been my very best friend. I told him all my teenaged secrets and cried in his mane when I was upset (which happened a lot in the 1980s). Since he was an old horse, I didn’t want to sell him when it was time to go to college. I was afraid he’d end up in the wrong hands and not enjoy his last years. So I found a local horsewoman to take him in. She lived on a beautiful farm in the Northern Neck of Virginia.

In December 1993, she told me that she thought it might be time to euthanize Rusty. He was going blind because of a progressive, painful disease colloquially known as “moonblindness”. The last time I had visited him, he hadn’t seemed like himself. His eyes had little yellowish looking “moons” in them. I was sad when I left him. He didn’t seem happy.

I remember dreading the day when it would come time to say goodbye to Rusty forever. But when that day actually came, I was actually okay. I didn’t cry much at all. My old riding teacher, Louise, told me that she knew I’d already “come to grips” with what was inevitable. In a sense, I’d already mourned. I do miss Rusty. I think of him all the time, even though he’s been gone for 27 years. He really was my best friend. But I knew it was his time to go and it was for the best that he had. He wasn’t in pain anymore.

Maybe some people might take issue with me sharing this story about my pony and comparing that loss to losing a human loved one. But I had a closer relationship with that pony than I did with most of my family members. For several of my formative years, I saw him most days. I spent time working with him and bonded with him. We went to countless horse shows and fox hunts. He was my rock, and I trusted him implicitly. It hurt to lose him, but when it came down to it, I knew it was his time, and I didn’t want him to be in pain anymore. That’s what it’s come down to with all of my beloved pets when it’s been time to let them go, most of whom I would prefer to spend time with over a lot of the humans I know.

I didn’t have an especially close relationship with either of the other two family members I lost this year. I knew them both and mostly had positive regard for them. I know there are people who were much closer to them and are probably dealing with very dark days right now. With everything else going on in 2020, it really is a strain to also lose someone you love, even if they didn’t die of the “plague” that is COVID-19.

But if, by chance, the strain isn’t too rough, I don’t think it’s helpful to feel badly about that. Don’t feel ashamed for not feeling bad. Even if it seems like you should be grieving or mourning more than you are, your ultimate goal would be to get over the pain, right? So if you’re not feeling the pain, there’s no need to force it. Forcing it wouldn’t be a legitimate form of mourning anyway. Chances are, if the grief ever did hit with a vengeance, you’d still need to do the work that comes from getting over a loss.

There may come a day when the gravity of loss will hit one of us very hard. But, for now, maybe it hasn’t sunk in… or maybe we’ve already done our grieving, years ago, when the loss wasn’t permanent, but still felt acute. I know I went through a rough time when I realized that some of my family members, whom I had looked up to and loved very much, were not as wonderful as I’d assumed they were. I went through a kind of grieving when I saw them with adult eyes instead of a child’s eyes. And then I moved away, and the pain faded. When some of them passed away, my feelings ran the gamut. In every case, I was sorry that they had suffered. And I was grateful that the suffering was over. In every case, I was sorry that I would not see them again. And I was grateful that their problems were solved and that there’s a chance I might see them again on the other side… if there is one. Even if there isn’t another side, when it’s my turn to go, I won’t be any the wiser.

Death is a natural and inevitable part of life. We all go through it. Don’t ever let anyone else tell you your feelings are inappropriate. They’re just feelings, and there’s no right or wrong to them. They’re just how you feel, and you have the right to feel things authentically. I know there are some people who are very concerned about appearances and would judge another person for how “appropriate” their grieving process is. But it wouldn’t help anyone else for Bill or me to be falling apart with grief. My husband’s stepmother would not feel better, for instance, if Bill was beside himself with tears to the point at which he couldn’t function. She might think that would be “appropriate” and deferential, but the reality is, it wouldn’t make any real difference to anyone… least of all, the deceased. She wouldn’t feel any better to see Bill devastated by loss. Maybe they could commiserate from afar– maybe there would be a feeling of “solidarity”. But when it comes right down to it, the real process of grieving is mostly a solitary one. Your feelings are yours, and yours alone.

There’s no need to add to your own burdens by trying to feel grief or sadness that isn’t there because that’s what’s considered “appropriate”. I think we need to change our thinking about that, and stop shaming people for not acting in the ways we think are “normal”. Who decides what is “normal”, anyway?

Well… that about does it for my Sunday message. I’m going to dive back into The Crown, take a shower, and maybe brush up on my guitar skills. Enjoy your day.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, mental health, poor judgment, social media

How about a little compassion?

This morning, we woke up to the first significant snow we’ve seen since 2017. I think we got one dusting last year, and the year before that. The other years we’ve been in Germany, there’s always been at least one or two good snows. I remember back in 2015, we got snow and it hung around for over a month. But the last couple of years, it’s been unusually warm. I remember when we lived in Germany the first time, I wouldn’t dream of going outside without a jacket. Now, I can get by the whole winter without donning my down coat. Or, at least I’ve been able to over the past few years.

Noyzi loves the snow. We let him out for his morning whizz and he was galloping all over the yard. Arran is less enthused about snow, but even he seemed to enjoy the pretty white blanket. I don’t know how long it will hang around. It was cold yesterday, but it feels a bit warmer today, despite all the white stuff. Bill was going to go into work, but he’s going to telework this morning because of the white dumpage. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of it melts by tonight, though.

Now… about today’s title. I read a sad story about an elderly couple from Jackson, Michigan who both caught COVID-19, got very sick, and died at the very same minute on November 24, just two days before Thanksgiving. Patricia and Leslie McWaters were reportedly inseparable. Married for 47 years and aged 78 and 75 respectively, they did everything together, even when it was time to exit this life.

Like the rest of us, this couple got tired of being locked down. They decided to go out to eat in a restaurant where people weren’t wearing masks and were freely walking among the tables. Boom… they got sick with COVID-19. Now, they’re dead.

It was a bittersweet story to read. Patricia McWaters had been an operating room nurse. Her husband, Leslie, had been a truck driver. They raised children together, and Patricia was known as “the boss”. Leslie was famous for his one-liners. They were much beloved by their family and friends.

I read the readers’ reactions. Quite predictably, instead of compassion and kindness, there was self-righteous comment after comment about how “stupid” and “selfish” this couple was for daring to dine out during a pandemic. I was starting to lose hope for humanity when I ran across this wise comment from a physician:

I’ll bet this doctor is a good one.

Everybody dies. Every single living being will someday pass away, and it’s quite possible that they will die because of something they did or didn’t do. There’s actually no telling how this couple got COVID-19. It’s highly possible they got it while dining at the restaurant, but it’s also possible that they didn’t. I’ve read so many stories about people getting sick and dying of this virus. I’ve read tales about people who egregiously flouted the rules and got it, as well as a few from people who did everything “right” and still got sick anyway. This virus is very insidious. I think anyone who gets it deserves empathy above everything else.

Another doctor had this to say…

A doctor who “truly wishes ill” on people? Wow. How shameful.

I feel sorry for the surviving McWaters family members because it sounds like they’re dealing with a terrible loss. Would the people commenting on this article have more compassion if this couple had died in an accident? What if they both got cancer or heart disease brought on by “bad habits”? How about if they got sick while working, rather than dining out? Would that make their causes of death more respectable? The bottom line is, they got very sick, suffered a lot, and died. Isn’t that punishment enough for them and their bereaved family members? Do we also have to heap nasty comments and callousness on top of that? Why is it necessary to be judgmental? Especially since the people the comments are directed toward are no longer with us, but their grieving family members are?

COVID fatigue is a real thing. I feel fortunate because I don’t mind staying home. I am a bit tired of seeing the same scenes every day, but I don’t mingle with people as a rule. So the social distancing thing isn’t a huge deal for me, personally. I would like to travel again and I miss eating in restaurants, but not so much that I’d take the risk of catching COVID-19 or dealing with the pain in the ass of taking precautions by wearing a mask. I’d rather simply stay home, which is what I continue to do and have the luxury of being able to do. I don’t feel like I’m suffering that much, but I also don’t feel morally superior to those who are still out in the world, doing their thing. If I weren’t living in Germany, where I am away from family and friends and don’t have to go to work, I’d probably be out among the masses, too.

But other people are having a real problem with this new lifestyle that has been forced on us this year. Some people are suffering from mental health issues. Others are just plain fed up. Plenty of others simply can’t stay home because they have to earn a living. I don’t wish illness or death on them for being human or needing to work. I also don’t wish them ill for wanting to enjoy life and having fun.

Remember, folks. There but by the grace of God (or just plain luck) go you and yours. This couple was very unlucky. When it comes down to it, they were just trying to enjoy their lives. And when you get to be in your 70s or 80s, you don’t have that much time to lose. Unfortunately, that group is the one most at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 and perishing. But they would have eventually died anyway. Everyone does. At least they were able to go out together.

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