The frail, elderly woman sitting in the common room of an assisted living facility in Central Florida. Her life slowly ebbing away, having stopped counting the days long ago. If, due to the ravages of a silent mental affliction, she can even understand the difference between one day and another.
She raises her head, ever so slowly, to acknowledge someone within her space. She could hear the footsteps and see the approaching shoes. Where once there was a vibrant gaze, there is now little more than emptiness in her eyes as she looks at her visitor and prepares to speak. Words, you see, no longer come easily for her.
“Do you know where Daddy is?”, she asks. In her voice there is a tremble, as if she already knows the answer. Perhaps, having been lied to so often and in so many ways, she does indeed know the response. This visitor, in actuality one who sees her every day, has been forced to lie to her every time the question is posed. Every day, the answer is the same.
“Your husband is away on a trip, and should be home any day now”, is the response. It is said with a smile, with tenderness, with a heart that is in many ways, breaking into small pieces. A heart that will never be whole again, forced to live with the knowledge that a lie, in this case, is always the best.
The woman struggles to wear even a small smile, her gaze becoming less hopeful. Her head sinks back down into her chest. Her body goes lifeless as she dissolves back into her chair, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, she begins to sob.
The visitor stands there for a few moments, unable to add anything of import or solace. He tries to smile back, but finds it impossible. All he can do is turn away, walk quickly out of her eyesight and that of others in the common area, turn the corner and begin to cry.
As he is doing now in writing this story.
Her husband was once a robust and healthy man, a proud man. Never in his life did he see a time such as this on the horizon. Now, he had no choice but to place his beloved wife into a facility where she could be properly cared for. With their meager savings dwindling, and the prospect of her becoming a ward of the State, he was forced to return to work.
Once, he was a respected professional in his field, and could have been considered a man of means. Now, with a pension that had been heartlessly diminished by a massive corporation that sought only to protect current shareholders, he found himself relegated to employment that demanded long hours and short pay. Yet he took what he was allowed, as a nation bent on a cheap and young labor force shoved him and, in essence, his wife to the ditch.
Despite his years and the knowledge of what was literally in the air around him, he vehemently refused to accept the possibility he could become sick. He railed against those who pleaded with him to listen and accept the swirling science around him. He refused to have his “Constitutional rights” taken away from him, forced by those who wanted to “destroy my country” in wearing a simple piece of cloth over his face, exercise any caution in group gatherings, and thus he lasted only a few days in several jobs where he was mandated to wear a mask.
There were, as I am told, about three dozen people attending as they lowered his body into the ground in October. As recounted to me by his daughter, most of those were close friends and their families. Few of whom wore masks, refusing to abide by the request in much the same manner as her Father decided. She’s not certain, but she believes at least 5 of those who were there are now also dead.
All due to complications arising from their exposure to and being infected with COVID-19.
These are the people who all have ears, all have eyes, and all can hear and see what has been happening in America and around the world for most of 2020. Despite the facts, the pleadings, the begging, the mounting numbers of lives being shattered and hospitals bursting at the seams with people clinging to small shreds of life, these are the people who will not be swayed in their various beliefs. That COVID-19 is just like the flu, that the numbers are inflated, that vaccines are only being created to inject us all with “trackers”, and that a delusional leader who has always been obsessed with his image first, and the health of his nation second, is correct in demanding loyalty first, common sense second.
Once, I would seek to change their minds. I would calmly try to engage them in rational conversation to discuss not merely what they could be doing to themselves, but what the effects of their actions could be on others. Their friends. Their families. Their children. Their spouses.
Sadly, all a waste of time. Their minds will not be changed, their delusional considerations will not be swayed, and they remain arrogant, selfish, narcissistic, even suicidal.
I can no longer muster a microscopic drip of empathy for them. I no longer offer prayers for them, nor seek to engage them in any conversation.
My empathy, sympathy, and emotions are now only for those who are forced to carry on in the aftermath of their hubris and pomposity.
The daughter who relayed to me this story. Her children who are too young to understand why they will never hear or feel a touch from their grandfather again, and why they cannot visit their grandmother.
That grandmother, that wonderful lady, who has to be confined to a facility where there is little contact with her family. Where sunshine is only felt thru sealed windows. Where memories fade faster every day as she descends into darkness.
All because of those who refused to consider others first, instead of themselves. Who could not, would not, wear a simple piece of cloth on their face and engage in simple caution.
Those who think nothing of killing themselves, and being part of a chain that has inflicted such dastardly pain upon others.
The people who have put not just this woman and her family in jeopardy, but my family as well. My elderly mother. My elderly father. The woman I love, her parents, the grandchildren and their parents.
I won’t pray for you. I don’t feel sorry for whatever happens to you. I will never mourn you.
I will pray for those you leave behind.
I will look into the eyes of that lady, my mom, my dad, and ask whatever power there is to safeguard them.
I’m not proud of it, but I will not apologize.
Not now. Not ever.