Stepping outside for the first time after my COVID-19 quarantine, I paused to inhale the fresh, fall air. It was Oct. 31, 2021, and I had never felt so grateful for my life.
A few weeks earlier, the dreaded virus that has turned our world upside-down had reached into our family’s lives, as so many others. The tendrils of this illness, originated in a faraway land, found the sacred interior of our home, and all we could do was wait it out, tend to our symptoms, and pray each of our body’s immunity would do its job.
When friends appeared without request, dropping off food, vitamins, and other helpful remedies, I felt God’s deep generosity and love. Soon, I would be driven to offer the same to others suffering.
Though all of our family members who’d contracted COVID-19 ultimately came through it, as we waited, moments of uncertainty mingled with our isolation. Though we knew our chances for survival were high, we also know this virus can be unpredictable. I took nothing for granted.
My husband, a survivor of two open-heart surgeries, seemed more confident of the outcome. But during my worst days, I caught myself playing the “What if?” game. I prayed almost constantly for grace and mercy, asking myself if I was ready for death, should it come. “No!” I concluded emphatically, not so much for myself, but I yearned to remain here for now, to serve and love our family and others.
My main symptoms included extreme weakness and nausea, while my lungs seemed untouched. As the days grew long, the illness refusing to let up quickly, I sensed the Grim Reaper sitting on our front steps, just beyond our bedroom window, salivating at the prospect of our possible demise. Was it the Divine Mercy image on our screen door that sent him away, unsatisfied?
A few weeks later, a friend who’d also just evaded the illness’s grip, mentioned how quickly God had begun showing him the fruits of his illness, for in his suffering, he had developed more compassion for others going through the same. I nodded. COVID-19 had also given me a keener heart toward others suffering this and other illnesses.
No day has passed since that I have not been extra thankful to God for loving me so tenderly, and giving me more chances to love him back here on earth, surrounded by family.
Surviving COVID-19 also brought an unanticipated freedom, quelling some of the worries I’d been carrying mentally, even if subconsciously, before infection. The mystery was no longer so mysterious. We’d overcome and could move forward with the plans God seemed to have set before us. We celebrated Thanksgiving and our 30th wedding anniversary with a heightened appreciation for every blessing.
The end of our quarantine also meant the resuming of previous activities, including my commitment to pray at the sidewalk of our state’s only abortion facility on Wednesdays. In the return, I found myself especially emotional, even bereft. I had just come through an illness that had made me contemplate death, and it seemed even more unfathomable now that anyone would purposefully rob anyone of the most primal gift, life itself.
Enduring COVID-19, my appreciation for life had increased tenfold—not only for my own life, but every life God has brought forth. In light of this disease that has left us all so shattered in so many ways, how could any of us so callously minimize the profundity of such a sublime gift?
The excuses of those insisting on abortion began ringing loudly in my ears: “She’s already made up her mind.” “I just have to keep this appointment.” “It’s not the right time.” Now, it all seemed even more hollow. After all, every last person alive today came from someone’s sacrifice. We were all born through the sweat and pain of our parents.
A month after my COVID-19 bout, oral arguments for the Dobbs vs. Jackson case to review the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade took place on what is Fargo’s “abortion day.” As I tried to convince a soft-hearted father to save his baby’s life, and he resisted, the impact of this court decision seemed weightier than ever.
Since experiencing COVID-19, I’m even more convicted than previously of the unparalleled and exquisite reality of life and its worthiness to be upheld in every instance. Let’s pray the justices agree.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s January 2022 issue.]