I love my mother. She was an avid gardener, cat-lover, and an amazing crafter and decorator. Her garden was full of vegetables that she canned and shared with others. She took care of the feral cats that decided her backyard was a great place to live. She sewed quilts, pajamas, and other clothes for us. Her decorative yard flowers made of old glass dishes were beautiful. She was able to take eclectic items and create beautiful rooms. She had recently moved into a new home in southeast Colorado from southern California. Her home was a work in progress, but you could see the decorations coming together to create a warm and inviting space.
However, mom will never get to finish her projects or her home. You see, mom believed the anti-vax rhetoric and decided not to get a vaccine. Mom believed that the vaccine could be dangerous, that it was developed too quickly, that Covid wasn’t as bad a people said, and that living in a small town, she probably wouldn’t get it. She was wrong. Mom left this world just before Christmas after a hellish battle with the virus. She was 78 and was active and healthy before she contracted Covid. A few weeks into her illness, Mom told me that she was sorry she was “arrogant” and didn’t get the vaccine. Her plan was to get one as soon as she recovered.
I am angry with Mom for not getting her vaccines and I am angry with the anti-vaxxers who spread the misinformation that my mom used to make her decision. Fox News is one of the main purveyors of false information. I wonder if we should all band together and sue them in a class-action lawsuit.
When it comes down to who is responsible, my mom made her choice. I had begged Mom to get the vaccine. I used logic, guilt, examples of real medical research from trusted sources, stories of what my co-worker went through before vaccines were available, even denying access to holiday events and great-grandchildren. Nothing convinced her to get the vaccine. The only thing that convinced her was experiencing the disease and then it was too late. I could not understand how someone who is a smart as my mother could believe the misinformation that was being distributed by news organizations and other people around her. It doesn’t make sense, any sense at all.
I think some of the reasons people tend to think Covid is not that bad, is that family members were not allowed in the hospital room with their family members. They didn’t see their loved ones fighting the high flow oxygen, the bi-pap machine, or the vent. You can talk around the high flow oxygen, but you cannot talk through the bi-pap machine. The machine is attached to your face and the air flow is so strong that your mouth is open all the time. It forces you to breath and pushes the oxygen into your lungs. Many people lay on their stomachs for hours each day in the hope that their lungs can expand. However, Covid causes your lungs to stop working and your lungs may not be able to use the oxygen that is being forced in. Family members (until recently) were not allowed to be with their loved ones as end of life happened. The nurses and doctors were there while people died. They tried to tell us how awful death by Covid is, but we couldn’t believe it could be that bad, so we didn’t listen.
My sisters and I were able to be there with our mom when it was time to remove the bi-pap machine that was keeping her alive but not fixing her lungs. Mom asked us to take it off. When I reminded her that her oxygen level would drop and she would die, she nodded that she didn’t want it anymore. She lost consciousness about an hour after the doctor removed the bi-pap machine. Her body lingered for 48 more hours – struggling to breath, restless, and unable to communicate with us. The morphine they give you to deal with the air hunger can only do so much. I didn’t think I would ever be in a position to pray for my mom to leave this world, but I was.
If you are someone who cannot get the vaccine due to medical reasons, this is not directed at you. The rest of us are supposed to get vaccines to keep you from getting sick. However, if you are not getting the vaccine because of your internet research (unless you have a doctorate in virology or work for someone who does, your “research” does not count), or because of something your friend told you, or because of something you read on social media, or because you don’t think Covid is that bad, or because of your freedom (there is no freedom to cause other people’s illness or death; how narcissistic of you), I hold you responsible for my mother’s death and the death of hundreds of thousands of people who have died since the vaccine became available.
The choice you are making to not get vaccinated is putting the lives of you, your family members, and the people around you at risk. Most likely, you or your loved one will get a mild version that doesn’t require hospitalization (but will require time away from work), but if you are one of the unlucky ones, prepare for treatment that is invasive, humiliating, and difficult. If the treatment doesn’t work for you, be prepared for a horrible death that your family members have to witness.
About the author: Kris is a mother of three and a grandmother of 4. Both she and her mother got a relatively early start on parenthood and at 78, her mom had 7 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. Kris works for an educational non-profit that teaches students to use the creative process and project management to solve challenges. Her experience of supporting her mother through Covid and the end of life was the hardest thing she ever had to do. This is her first non-work-related article, and she is using her first name to protect her mother’s and sisters’ privacy.