We last saw Cheri’s mom on October 9. We met her in Grand Forks, where she had a medical appointment, and then we had a rare stop at a restaurant. It actually had been a couple of weeks since then, and we were planning to go up to Grafton to see her last Friday. She’s 87, and Cheri’s dad died a couple of years ago, and before that, they had moved into town from the farm, so Cheri’s mom’s life has been a bit off-kilter for a while now.
On Wednesday last week, Cheri got the call from her mom that one of her closest friend’s husband had tested positive for CoVid, and the friend had found out that she, too, had tested positive. What’s bad about all that is that Cheri’s mom, and the friend, and another friend had gone out for lunch just the day before, and then had coffee over at the house. This of course meant that Cheri’s mom, and the other friend needed to be tested after a couple of days, to make sure the exposure did not mean they caught the virus. That also meant we were not going up to Grafton last Friday, since that was the day her mother was to be tested.
Cheri called her mom on Sunday, and found out the news that indeed, Cheri’s mom has the virus as well, as does her other good friend. Suddenly, what has been a television and internet discussion, and a daily tally of how many North Dakotans had been tested positive and such became a very personal and important reality. It’s not that she has a cold, or sprained her ankle – she now becomes part of history, and more than that, she moves into a pretty scary place.
As I said, she is 87 years old, and has some ongoing medical issues, which most folks in their upper 80s have. She has also done as good a job as possible, I suppose, going through such deep and difficult transitions over the last few years. She had lived on the farm with Cheri’s dad since the day they were married in 1954 – that meant one home for more than 60 years, and it was the farm, where life and work and running for parts, and fixing big meals and mowing the acreage all were life-forming, and life giving. To move into a small townhouse, where after 64 years of marriage, she also witnessed the death of her husband was a huge trauma. The medical concerns were added to the poignant loneliness she has felt. As much as we have tried to visit – with that four hour round trip every other week – it can’t possibly replace the companionship she shared.
What is so insidious, and I would say, evil, about this disease, is that at the very moment Cheri’s mom could really use some face-to-face contact, with hugs and sharing coffee and meals and running the errands needed, and even out to the farm to continue clearing the home, the protocol of such a contagious virus means quarantine, and all that support is distilled into phone calls. A number of years ago, we tried to interest Cheri’s mom into getting a computer, but she saw no use for one. Imagine how differently we could have had facetime conversations, or Zoom or something, but now that is really too late.
We are thankful that right now, even though she has the disease, she is asymptomatic – not even a cough, or a temperature. It could be that she will be blessed to have it simply go away, and we would hope the same for her friends. But there is no way to predict that course, or when or if or how the virus may present itself, outside of a test already taken and failed. We will just have to wait, and not make any trips up north until things have cleared.
I have to confess that I am more than a little upset with the husband who first spread the virus. His nonchalant approach to it all, including attending a church in town that somehow believes it will be spared any consequence of spreading the disease, and so has met in close, face-to-face gatherings without masks, and singing together… at least, they were meeting, until the pastor and a significant number of the parishioners contracted the coronavirus, shutting it all down. His only problem now is that they are delayed in heading to Florida for the winter. Poor thing.
Cheri’s mom, however, even with hating the hoopla around the virus, took special care to keep things clean and sanitary – she even would wipe off the steering wheel of her car when she came home from getting groceries, or going to the pharmacy. Even with all of that, as she took it so seriously, she now has to deal with whatever this thing will bring to her health. Granted, she and her friends did not “social distance,” but in their minds they were pretty much in a bubble, in a small town, in a rural area, with very little interaction. Except one or two people, with lots of “social closeness” entered their bubble, and burst it.
With Cheri being a nurse practitioner, there is practically no possibility of being able to make contact except by phone. The best we can do is to call frequently, and send her a care package of cheeses she really loves – and to pray.
Now, I have for many years believed that prayer is not to treat God like a cosmic vending machine, or a genie in a bottle, where we make a wish, and it is granted. I have thought instead that prayer means to enter into the presence of God, and to seek God’s will, and not my own in any situation. So it’s hard to pray that God would keep my mother in law from experiencing the virus, and heal her, when hundreds of thousands of people around the world have died as a result.
So, what I will pray is what Jesus prayed in the Garden. I will tell God that I wish to be aligned with God’s will. If it is God’s will that this passes without more than a simple inconvenience, then let that be so. However, I leave the future to God’s care. God knows we love her, and what we hope will occur, or not occur. I also truly believe that God does not will for anyone to die from disease or injury or war or anything of the sort. I do believe however that whether we live or die, we do so in the loving care of God, who cherishes us beyond what we can imagine. If a disease results in healing, then we can redouble our efforts to love this world even more. If it results in the end of life, then we also know that God has already claimed us, and will be with us in life and beyond death. That’s the promise of our faith.
These are such strange times. Remember again, however, that our intentional approach to life and all it brings is the key to living abundantly, and hopefully. It’s not what happens to us that matters – it’s what we do with what happens to us.
Stay healthy, and stay hopeful in these odd days of our world.
Word for the Day: panoply. Pronounced PAN – o – plea. It is a Greek word, broken down into pan, meaning “total or complete” (like a pandemic, a worldwide spread), and ply, becoming plon in Greek, meaning “tool,” or “armor.” A panoply, or Greek panoplia was/is a complete set of armor, worn by infantry soldiers in ancient Greece. Can you imagine walking even 5 miles in the Greek sunshine in that outfit?
In the letter to the Ephesians, panoply takes on a different sense, as we are called to “put on the whole armor – of God.” It becomes the spiritual armor as a defensive protection against the devil.
Even later on, a “panoply” stands for any impressive, complete array of anything that is vast and eye-popping. Did I tell you I have a panoply of Red Wing Stoneware?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.