To Mask or Not To Mask That Is The Question

That really wasn’t what I wanted to title this post but I thought it was nicer and kinder than what I wanted to name it. There are days I get tired of trying to be nice and tolerant and…see both sides of the coin and I can feel my angst getting there.

Social media is a hotbed of discussion on the wearing of masks and also whether we should open up again in the midst of this pandemic. We will get to some of those views later.

First I want to state I so feel for those without jobs right now. I do think we need to reopen but I feel to be safe we need to have some guidelines in place, and that is where the crux of the heated discussions come in.

Let’s tackle the death count first. There are those of you that think this is all a conspiracy. I have heard and seen the posts that the majority of those dying are in nursing homes so the rest of us are safe, and it is no worse then the flu. Nursing homes always have high death rates from the flu.

I wanted to title this column “Save the Babies, Kill the Old People” because some of the same people that are saying it’s ok to let the old people die are the same ones who would go to any lengths to save the babies. I think they both should be saved.

Does the normal flu kill those in nursing homes at a higher rate. I don’t know, but this pandemic does. When is the last time you heard of 47 people in one nursing home dying within days of each other and with some staff dying too? My mother died in 2002 in a nursing home. She caught a virus or bug. Probably Pneumonia. We sat with her the first few days and then we became sick, staying that way for weeks. My son took over the bedside holding of hands but in the actual time of her death, she was alone. When they called me to come at the final moments I was too sick to get out of bed. Not only did she die, days later her roommate died. But in no way did high numbers die.

The nursing home did an excellent job of taking care of her but nursing homes are not equipped for outbreaks of the flu or viruses. With Covid-19 if the same patients were in a hospital the people attending to them would be suited up with heavy safety measures. Nursing homes do not have this safety equipment and the aides and nurses that work there aren’t provided with the protection either. But those people that all of you are giving excuses as good reasons why they are dying from this virus in their homes, in an congregate living facility, are someones mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, sister, brother or friend. Some are there because they are in their 80’s and 90’s and can no longer take care of themselves. Some are there because they have a disabling disease and are young and need care. Others are recuperating for a short time until they are well enough to go home. To dismiss this as being acceptable that their life can be ended because of their age is disgraceful. How do you think they caught that virus? Someone from the outside came in and gave it to them. That could have been you.

Now let’s get to the masks. I am coming to the conclusion that we may be a selfish society born of wealth and good living because we don’t want to take the time to do something that may or may not protect someone else. “I am not going to do it because it doesn’t benefit me. I am not going to do it because it doesn’t help. I am not going to do it because it makes me uncomfortable.” I get some of this. I am still that selfish person that may hide a cookie from you if it is the only one left or maybe want to hide my toilet paper. I get that because in my younger days it was more about me than anyone else, but hopefully age has brought to me the bigger picture.

The discussion I have been a part of is about businesses requiring customers and personnel to wear masks. It seems in small communities that have little confirmed cases, people and businesses are ignoring the safety of masks, maybe getting too comfortable in the “it can’t happen here” thinking. There is so much blah, blah, blah out there about it, some fabricated by self appointed guru’s that do not have any credible facts. Other facts come out of places like clinics and government agencies, but people are not believing the doctors and nurses on the front lines. Maybe we just can’t handle the actual truth or it would be too horrifying so we deem it as fake news.

Myself, I don’t like the masks but I will wear one. I learned the value of masks when I had friends who were ill and were going through cancer treatment. We wore masks to protect them. To me it is small thing to wear a mask. If it works to protect one person it is worth it. If I owned a small business I would have my employees wear masks, not only to protect them, but to protect my business from a lawsuit if an employee would get sick or a customer would get infected in my store. It is a small thing in the scheme of life to do. I don’t do it because the government orders me to. I do it because of my friends who are on the front lines in New York City, or my doctor friend in Sioux Falls, or my friend in British Columbia who is in quarantine from being exposed, or my American friends in China who know the value of masks and want to come home to the states to visit their family one day ,or my grandchildren that work in food service and are still working.

I will choose to shop in those stores that protect their workers or try to protect their workers. At least they are trying and the more we do that, the more people will get back to work. To me it is not acceptable to have so many food plant workers sick and dying because of this virus. To me it is not acceptable to have the elderly dismissed because they no longer seem to be a productive part of our society. Remember someday that might be you.

These are my thoughts, my opinion and any derogatory comments will be deleted. I value an opinion if it is provided respectfully and I will respect it too.

By the way, I have no credentials except that of being a writer and that is what I do, I write. So take my opinion or leave it. Your life and your opinion is in your hands.

Are They A Real Friend?

When I am In a conversation, face to face, with friends and family I might mention something that happened to one of my Facebook friends, but I don’t say they are a Facebook friend. I can’t tell  you how many times the people I am sharing a conversation with ask me, “Is this a real friend or a Facebook friend?” It as if one of the many people I connected with on Facebook are not real people and don’t have real feelings or real experiences. Can a friend only be a friend if you have met them face to face?

I think of my pen pals who I kept in touch with during my teen years. No one, including my parents, asked me if they were real friends.

When I consider a conventional friendship it means we converse regularly, or when it has been miles and years that have kept us apart and we get  back together nothing has changed. I care about this person. I hurt when they hurt and I rejoice when they have good news. We might exchange gifts or cards over the years. My definition of a friend is someone who I share the good times and the bad times with.

I do that with my Facebook friends. I have those that after we connected on Facebook, we met in real life and continue our friendship in person and online, such as my friends Timya and Barbara. Shopping is always fun with these two ladies. Or Mary, another author whom I meet for coffee when our lives permit us traveling a distance to meet.

Then there is Heather and Andrea who live in Canada. We Skype every so often and keep in touch every night by sending each other our gratitude list. It keeps us grateful.  My friend Sue Ann is a wonder woman on her farm in Ohio. I loved the smell of the lavender she sent me as a gift and also her tales of her life on her little piece of heaven. She should be a writer. Or my friend CeeCee who has been there  when I even mention I might be down. She gets in touch with me privately, helping me get through rough spots and I hope I do that for her. And of course there is sweet Lisa who I met when she reviewed my books, and has a heart so big that she hurts too every time one of her friends is hurting. I could go on and on about those who I consider friends whom I met online and I have only mentioned a few.

Today my heart is grieving for my friend Joanne Kocourek. She died last night and went into the loving arms of our Savior. Her pain is over. I don’t remember when exactly I met Joanne. I suspect it was because I am an author and she read one of my books. But once I met her I found she was one of the most courageous women I have known. She suffered from mitochondrial disease. Her life was not an easy one yet she always had encouragement for those she met. Through her journey of hospitals and pain and setbacks she kept her joyful spirit. She used her disease to help others who were diagnosed navigate the system. The more I learned about her life the more I knew she was special. She adopted two girls with the same disease and raised them to have the same beautiful spirit and attitude. She called herself the chronic conditions survivor and others called her a warrior and she was.  Her faith in the Lord was strong and I suspect she would tell us she couldn’t have done it without Him. I learned from Joanne about compassion and standing up for right and wrong when the system knocks you down. I am going to miss her guiding and encouraging spirit as are so many others. Yes, she was a real friend.

So don’t ask me again if I am talking about a “real friend” when they are from Facebook.  We may never meet in person but these special people have hopes, dreams, are caring and compassionate and because of their friendship,my life is richer and better. I learn about different cultures and I have become more tolerant and accepting of that which is different because they have let me into their lives and their feelings. I am blessed for these experiences.

RIP Joanne. I am sure you are now able to dance and sing with the angels.

The Final Good-Bye

IMG_3258The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.” — Eminem

The quote above was certainly true in our lives the last couple of weeks. We had a fun vacation up north and the next day we were sitting by the bedside of my brother-in-law who was in his final moments.

As I look back on the week it was a week of blessings. We spent time with good friends. We laughed, ate the fish the men caught, explored shops and took the time to relax and enjoy life. It wasn’t the fact that we were on vacation that made it special; it was the fact we shared the week with close friends creating memories.

We got the call that we were needed  at the bedside of my brother-in-law, Evan, as we were driving home from the lake. The next few days by his bedside we  prayed, cried, reminisced and waited for God  to call him home. As hard as it was, it too was a blessing because we could be there in his final moments. We could connect with others who loved this man. We don’t always come into this world easily at birth and we don’t always go out easily either. The last few days were a struggle for him and we didn’t want him or his wife  being alone at this difficult time.

I wondered as we sat there waiting, what he would have said to us if he would have had the power to speak. What would he say about what we were saying? What was he thinking? Were we giving him comfort? Or would he have told us to go away?

It had been a long journey for Evan. His diagnosis was Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t the first in the family, and I suspect it won’t be the last. He was not the person the last few years we all remembered. Yet, he was still loved in his anger, quietness and joy,  remaining the husband, father and brother in our lives.

Everyone deals with a loved one’s decline differently. Some stay away because they can’t handle seeing their loved one in this changing state. They want to remember them as they were. I get that. And again I support those who have to do what they do to take care of themselves. For myself at this time in my life I think about the person going through the process of leaving this earth or who is in declining health. It isn’t about me; it is about them and what they are feeling if those they love stay away.

We all need someone to share the rough spots of our life, to help us get through the hills and the valleys, whether it is an illness where we are healed, or an illness where God chooses to take us home. We need someone to care.

I have not always been by the side of someone I loved, or visited a friend when they are going through their final weeks. I too have stayed away. When my friend Mary was ready to leave this world I stayed away. I was sick and suffering depression and I couldn’t handle it. I so regret that I stayed away and didn’t say goodbye, but I get it when seeing someone you love in pain is too much.

I haven’t always helped those who needed help. I haven’t always had the help of those I thought I could depend on, but I know it is not because I didn’t care or they didn’t care, but because of where they were or where I was in my life, there was nothing left inside of them or me to help someone else.

This time, I was able to say goodbye to the man who was the first person besides my mother-in-law to welcome me into the family and accept me as I was. I felt privileged to have the time to say goodbye to the man who was godfather to my children and took that role very seriously. My children all have special memories of their Uncle Evan as do all his nieces and nephews.

If we needed help, Evan was there to lend a hand. He was there to give his opinion and we could take it or leave it. He left us with sayings we will never forget and memories that will always have a hold on our hearts.

Don’t be afraid to hold the hand of someone you love in their final moments. You will find you won’t remember what they looked like in their final days, but you will remember the lifetime of memories that you were given and the smiles that came before.

Rest in peace, Evan. When we asked you how you were, you always replied, “Not as good as some, but better than most.” In our eyes you were always the best.