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Yep. I have it. Every day I get a text from my parents and several friends asking if I’m starting to feel better yet. The ugly truth is I feel so much worse than I did 10 days ago when I tested positive. Each day my worst symptoms change just a bit, but every day I. Am. Miserable. I know who I got it from, and I have been self-isolating so I don’t spread it to others, except Benny because we share everything. Yikes. The rest of the family tested negative, then Benny started having symptoms and tested positive on the second test. Thank God our kids are fine and totally self-sufficient!

You’ve probably heard this affects every person differently, so here’s what I’m experiencing in case you want to compare notes, or if you’re one of those people still spouting off that this is, “just the flu” and not that bad.

I’ve had a constant headache that doesn’t go away with medication or even ice on the back of my head and neck. I’ve got sinus congestion and drainage, which is probably what is causing my sore throat. I’m coughing so hard I’m vomiting or peeing myself, sometimes both. My fever is fluctuating between 99 and 101.7 degrees. There is no part of my body that doesn’t hurt – even my hair hurts. I lost my sense of taste and smell, which was pretty trippy. Now that my taste is coming back, every flavor feels like too much – too sweet, or too spicy, or too bland. I’m asthmatic and my chest is so tight I can’t take a deep breath without choking. I have just enough energy to get myself up to use the bathroom which is good because…diarrhea. UGH. I am not sugarcoating anything for you. This virus is nasty!

I am monitoring all my vitals, taking supplements and vitamins, and my doctor says I’m doing everything I am supposed to do – I just have to rest and drink lots of fluids and wait this out, unless I can’t breathe, then I’m heading to the ER. I am weary.

I was crushed to have to miss Linda’s funeral last Saturday, and even though it was livestreamed, I was so sick I slept right through it. ☹

As hard as this is, there are silver linings in the form of our people:

  • My SIL in Washington ordered us enough pizza to feed the kids for a few days, and she and my brother call me every day to check on us and tell me they’re praying for us.
  • Benny’s BFF brought me yogurt, bananas, and OJ when those were the only things I thought I could keep down. He continues to check on us and drop little things off here and there.
  • One of my tribe did a grocery trip/porch drop off for us.
  • One of my tribe sent me a Grubhub gift card.
  • One of my tribe dropped off Manuka honey, Elderberry, and Goldenseal Root for me today. We are throwing everything we can at this to see what helps.
  • Our parents call or text us every day, and several friends keep checking in on us. That makes me feel loved.
  • My older brother (by a year) left me a “Checking on you, baby sister” message, and my younger brother who has already recovered from Covid checked on me too. Brothers for the win!!
  • My boss/friend has been extremely understanding about my need for flexibility with my work schedule.
  • Benny qualified for special PTO that won’t count against his regular PTO so even though my income is suffering right now, his is not.

I know we will recover from this and for that I am grateful, but it’s day 10 and recovery isn’t happening just yet, and patience has never been a virtue I possess. It blows my damn mind that I still have a few friends calling this a plandemic, and a hoax. I kind of hate them right now, but I wouldn’t wish this on them either.

Please be smart and stay safe, friends!

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She called me a breath of fresh air. She also called me out on my shit. She took me to lunch and gifted me with pretty things. When we lived states away from each other, she wrote me long, handwritten letters. She looked me in the eye when she talked to me and every now and then she’d reach out and squeeze my hand. She laughed at my jokes, reassured me I’d be just fine when I was weighed down with worry and sadness, and she always ended our chats with, “I love you, honey.”

I wrote this about her in a blog post 15 years ago:

“I had the privilege of spending a few precious hours with Linda today, my friend and mentor. It’s so nice to know we live in the same town again – even for a short time. She picked me up and we went shopping for a bit, went to her eye doctor, then enjoyed lunch together. We ate Chinese food, and since she had her eyes dilated, she asked me to read the fortune from her cookie. I made one up that kept us laughing for several minutes. There is seldom a moment of silence when we are together!

Linda is 60 something, has blonde spiky hair (Clairol, like me), beautiful eyes and a bright lip-sticked smile. She loves big silver jewelry – the bigger the better, fell in love with her husband when she was 17, collects chili pepper stuff, loves chocolate, and reads more than any woman I know. She has some health challenges, but mostly takes them in stride. She is the only woman in my life that prays with me every time we’re together. She and I have talked and struggled through some deep stuff. She gives me wise counsel and points me back to God. She has two daughters already, so I tease her that I’m a bonus. Her daughter Corrine calls me her sister from another mother.

Linda gives the best hugs and she’s always thrilled to see me. As much as I get from our friendship, she tells me that I’m a drink of fresh water! Nobody has ever talked about me like that. The funniest thing about our relationship? We met at a garage sale! Our friendship dates back to BC – before children (mine of course – hers are older than me). She is one of my favorite balcony people. How I love and respect this woman! She affirms me and releases me to be who I am. She makes me a better me.” ~April 2005

Corrine contacted me late last night to tell me Linda passed away yesterday, surrounded by her family. I don’t know the details yet, I just know I am aching and heartbroken. It’s been hard to breathe all year, but this loss has been my greatest and I need a pause. I learned long ago not to wait to let the people I love know how I feel about them. The comforting thought holding me together right now is that there is no doubt in my mind that Linda knew the depth of my love for her. Say what you need to say. Do it now. Don’t wait.

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I can’t breathe.

Is there anything heavier or sharper than grief?

If this was a movie, I’d be slumped on my side having just been run through with a sword. No, it won’t kill me, but to deny that death more than stings for those of us left behind would be an atrocious lie. Papercuts sting. This is so much more.

Talk of heaven doesn’t comfort me. I don’t want hope right now. I want to press into this moment of terrible otherness – the rending of life. Don’t talk to me about her reunion with Jesus or the promise of being with her again someday. Those thoughts will come in the days ahead. Today let me mourn and don’t try to stem the torrential tears. Just hold me close and let me be.

Twelve days ago, one of my “mothers” chose her ending – to enter hospice care at home with her precious family by her side. She’d been battling cancer and the treatments didn’t work. Last night, she took her last breath.

Avon

I stole this from her Facebook page. I love her mischievous grin.

Avon Shields, known by thousands of women around the world as “Momavon,” was my dorm mom in college. She has been one of the most influential women in my life. I could write volumes about the lessons I learned from her, but I’ve tried my best to live them out instead. The way she loved the girls in her care made me want to be a mom even though I swore to her that wasn’t part of my plan. She just laughed and hugged me tight, “Oh Niki, my sweet girl, you may change your mind one day.”

Three weeks after my eighteenth birthday, I packed everything I own and waited for my friend Erin Beske and her parents to take me away to my new life, one I’d been dreaming about since the seventh grade when I first stepped foot on the campus of York College in York, Nebraska. Finally, and against the odds, I said goodbye to my childhood in Wisconsin and swore I’d never call it my home again. Yes, I’m a bit dramatic like that, and apparently I swear a lot.

There were only two women’s dorms and I was assigned to the one Avon lived in. Someday I’ll write about the many kindnesses and miracles of that life-altering first year, but this is about me and Avon. She told me once she loved me from the moment we met. That strong, patient woman poured love and guidance into me, a broken girl with too many holes in my bucket, and when I apologized for being so needy, she pulled me close and said that was nonsense.

She saw the leader in me and gave me responsibilities, showing me I was capable. When we joked and teased her about her many rules and forms, I was secretly relieved at the structure and stability she provided after growing up in my chaotic family. I’m totally a rule bender, but I needed her to help me set my life on a better course. I think we both knew it. A lot of the major decisions I made at York were discussed over tea in her apartment. She talked me through all the things my mother couldn’t, and I’ll be forever grateful. When she did finally meet my mother, she was kind and gracious to her, which was also a gift to me.

Avon loved Benny. She loved to remind me that she knew he was the one I’d choose maybe even before I knew myself. It’s been many years since we’ve sat together with a cup of tea, and I’m glad we had Facebook to help us peek into each other’s lives. I’m thankful for the brief moments we’ve shared in the 25 years since we lived in the same space. There are so many stories to tell, and all of them are coursing through me today with a painful and beautiful cadence.

I love Avon’s family and ache for them right now. Her husband Ron is a kind and funny man. I don’t know their eldest son Alan, though we’ve met. I’ve always admired Lynnette and her beautiful artist’s soul. I know her son Paul the best as he was my editor when I worked on the school newspaper staff in college, and his wife Shalee is one of my kindred spirit friends I wish lived next door. I can’t be with them this week, but my aching heart is there, attempting this dance of grief and celebration with clumsy feet.

When we lose someone we love, we often choose to immortalize them as their best selves. We know they were flawed but we overlook those things to remember them as the heroes they were in our lives. I’m okay with that. I think it’s the way it should be. It’s what I hope for someday too, to be remembered as the best of what and who I was.

I will remember you, Avon. I promise. I learned how to patch my bucket and I’ve tried to be purposeful about pouring into others. Thank you for showing me how. Thank you for guiding me through my baby steps of adulthood and loving me when I didn’t feel lovable. Thank you for cheering me on as I spread my wings and flew away. It’s been years since I’ve hugged you, and I hope to hug you again someday. Thanks for being a mom to me.

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