June 2, 2023
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The past week or two have been, for my wife and me, surreal.

Having done everything we prudently could do not to contract COVID-19, we managed to welcome the little beastie aboard. Delta variant. Nasty guest.

“Prudence,” I think, involves a needle times two (and, if a booster, Needle No. 3, is offered, yes, please, ASAP!). I’m glad most of my friends are happily inoculated. I love deeply more than a few who have chosen differently. I wish they’d reconsider. I’m happier when my motorcycle buddies are wearing helmets. But arguing won’t help.

For a number of times during this lovely experience, my inspired and inspiring attitude toward most of “normal” life could be summed up in surly tones muttered through an air passage crafted to reach my nose under sweat-dampened bed covers, “Frankly, my dear . . .” (“My dear” here is Scarlett, not my personal “dear.” I refer you to the movie.)

But now I do. Uh, care. And I sincerely tell you, you do not want this.

“Break-through,” as a noun, can mean, “Aha! An answer! A cure! A sudden advance!”

But as an adjective, most usually these days, it refers to “break-through” COVID-19 infections, mostly “delta variant,” that partially defeat the vaccine’s protection and make folks sick.

My wife ended up spending four days in a big hospital after an eternal evening (I hear Charlton Heston’s booming biblical tones, “And there was evening, and there was morning, a second day”) we spent in their vastly over-worked Emergency Dept.  

At the time, they’d had 63 new COVID-19 patients in the hospital in three weeks (as I recall the report). My wife was one of only two who had been vaccinated (I like those odds), and her “break-through” was in a known category; no fun, but not mysterious.

Why I fell, too, is another question. Deceptively young, healthy, robust . . . Yeah, right. (But the real “control” person in the “test” is a vaccinated son who spent a lot of time with us and embodies the incredibly encouraging odds. Just fine.)

I’m grateful to our Father for the folks he’s put around us who have been amazing. I am immensely grateful my wife and I are on the mend.

More than ever, I feel deep sympathy for the many whose pain and grief in this has been so much worse.

Yet again, I discover that the “spiritual Big League” is not my league but that the minors and I are better suited. I trust God’s counsel regarding blessings and growth in suffering. I also know that he loves us, understands us, and is not shocked when in the midst of fever-induced aches, sweats, chills, coughing fits, pressurized heads, and COVID confusion, he might hear an utterance or two proceeding from under my blanket less akin to “Praise the Lord” than to a teeth-clenched “Aw, shucks!” It is God who is at work in us when faith grows even a little, and faith, “the size of a mustard seed” is literally larger than Mount Everest compared to a virus particle.

I thank God that we’ve been able to deal with decisions regarding re-entering “life” and work, when a nudge in the wrong direction could have changed the question in her case: Will you consider going on a ventilator? We thank God for the needles that spared her that, me the hospital, and our loved ones, unnecessary pain.

“You can’t know that,” someone says. I think we can. I’ll betcha the odds our illnesses would’ve gone that way are much better than 50/50. At 50/50, I’d take the odds and not even break a sweat. You’re welcome to bet on your own pestilence.

Quick points: I don’t do biblical curses except on really bad days, but for those who most want to politicize all of this (far left, far right, and loudly condescending toward any sense to be found in the middle), well, I hope it backfires. You hurt people and don’t help. “Wish ya could’ve come to the house last week for cake, coffee, and a good bit of handshaking.” (Kidding.)

But a hopeful note! I read a good article last week by a fellow whose work makes his opinion weighty to me. He didn’t downplay the pain and suffering wrought by this pandemic. But he reckons that the “break-throughs” genuine science is already reaping and will continue to reap, motivated by necessity, will be integral in saving an incredible number of lives and alleviating a lot of suffering in the not-at-all-distant future. I bet he’s right.

Side note: I’ll personally be surprised if at least a very few of the “edgy” treatments being kicked around now don’t become surprisingly mainstream. (I’m steering clear of anything involving lizard droppings and fly wings) But my money is still on my doctor’s counsel: the needle.)

I do hope that optimistic columnist is on target. And why wouldn’t we all?

I do know that I’m tired of this topic and thankful no missing spot at the table brings it up again each morning. I hope the variant is a blip. We’ll see.

I think I can “almost pretty certainly say with somewhat reasonable confidence” that I’ll write a lot less on this topic once I’m out of isolation. In the meantime, I’m feeling better, less surly, more thankful. If you think I’m full of prunes and completely mistaken, I hope you’ll be quite thankful for being less mentally foggy than yours truly. Gratitude all around.

Win. Win.

And whatever approach you take, my sincere prayer is that you and yours stay well.

Curtis K. Shelburne



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