Photos by Debra Bernard Photography
2020 is undoubtedly a year people will remember and converse about throughout history. However, we will not remember it as fondly as we first might have hoped when ringing in the new year. I know I will not. This last year, my mom’s health was looking up and because we were celebrating the incoming new year with friends and family, it seemed we were in for a lot of new hope and adventures.
Only a few hours later this changed when I heard my mom choking from the next room. She tends to cough but this sounded different; almost like gasping, and I knew something was wrong. I walked into the living room, her face was flushed. She had tried to take a pill but it was stuck in her throat which I gathered from her frantic gestures between the pill bottle and her neck. My mother has had cancer for the past three years and lost her ability to salivate, which is why she chokes so easily.
My dad tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her, but she continued to choke. Although I called 911, my mom was eventually able to cough up the pill herself. This was a blessing because the ambulance took what seemed like forever to arrive. Most importantly, she was okay at the end, but the whole thing seemed horrifying and unnecessary. That is also how I feel about the year 2020.
I believe in signs. When reflecting back on this time, I think this was sort of a bad omen that might have signified what this year had in store. In February 2020, LocalTies featured my mom and her journey. I’d like to offer a different perspective and talk about some of my thoughts and experiences throughout the pandemic, and how my family is currently doing. I think what 2020 has taught me the most has been to look for silver linings in bad situations. Obviously this year has consisted of many problems but these problems create opportunities and for that I am grateful.
There is no doubt that Covid has caused many problems for many people and families and it had its toll on mine as well. My mom’s sickness made it really hard for us to all be together safely. In March when everything started, I was in California at San Diego State University. We were given a couple days to move out of the dorms and I was worried about how I would get myself all the way back to Minnesota. At the same time my brother was experiencing something similar while going to school in Alabama. Fortunately, my Dad came to the rescue like he always does and was able to fly across the country and get us both back all together and at home. I was glad to be home and safe although I could not yet spend time with my mom in fear of getting her sick.
Initially I was just grateful to be home. The atmosphere in San Diego was becoming slightly hostile and without any family out there the pandemic made me feel scared. This feeling of gratefulness was short lived, though, as the boredom of quarantine set in.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only caused us to be socially and emotionally distant from others but also from ourselves because oftentimes we define ourselves based on our interactions with others. The more time we spend apart from others, the more we forget ourselves – I find this has been an issue I have struggled with, and I am sure a lot of other people are experiencing it as well. Although this time has been difficult, COVID has allowed me to reflect and create a new path for myself. Hardships lead to fresh starts, and as 2020 brought some pretty hard times, it only makes me feel more prepared for the future. This thought – the times we hate to endure are meant to prepare us – gives me hope. I found myself finding comfort in this quite a lot throughout the past year.
The thing that truly keeps us going is the people who support us and no one knows this more than my mom. I have never met anyone more full of life than my mom. Even from before she was sick, she always cherishes every moment and spreads her genuine happiness to whomever she is around. Throughout the last few years she has undergone massive amounts of radiation and chemotherapy. Now she is trying immunization therapy to combat the disease. She has endured so much, yet acts only ever out of love.
My mom is the person who taught me how to live with intensity, gratitude, and to find the silver linings.