A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Covid-19 – Part 2

by Anne Kerrigan

Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died”. “Your brother Lazarus will rise again”. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he die. Do you believe this”? “Yes, Lord, she said”.

John 11:25,
The Resurrection of Lazarus

I have heard the above-quoted biblical passage all my life, and as I have lost people I love, the passage has become even more meaningful. But, during my recent bout with Covid-19, the passage has taken on a whole new dimension. As I began to come out of the viral stupor, drifting between certain death and life, realising that I was still alive, death and resurrection became not just an abstract thought or idea, but a lived reality. 

During those horrific two and a half weeks, I do recall becoming aware of my impending and rather immediate death. I remember thinking that my death was not evolving as expected, but then again, is our own death ever as we might expect it? I wished I had more time to prepare, to speak to my loved ones, to pray. But, there was no energy left for any of those things, just limited awareness and only time for an acceptance of the inevitable.

When, some weeks later, I realised I was alive, it took time to process what had happened. The story of Lazarus became my story. The image of Lazarus, stumbling forth out of the grave while shedding the burial cloths, became my own image, stumbling out from under a mound of covers. I wonder if Lazarus was as confused as I was, not really understanding how the transition from death to life had occurred. I know that life takes time to process, but this was a whole other scenario.

I would soon learn that the process can be more complicated than anticipated.

The Raising of Lazarus, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1311

It was shortly after my own resurrection that my husband began to come out of his viral fog, drifting over from death to life. He was very weak, not having been out of bed for almost two and a half weeks. He tried to stand with some help but complained of persistent, severe right leg pain. As my son tried to help my husband to stand, he became aware that his right leg was very, very grey in colour and cool to the touch. I was very worried about that leg and its apparently compromised circulation. When circulation is compromised, it is usually an extraordinarily serious medical situation. Worry engulfed me.

Since it was late Saturday afternoon and our physician was not available, our call went to his emergency service. The covering physician recommended a trip to the emergency room for the assessment of a probable circulatory problem. Arrangements were made and the ambulance arrived to take my husband to Southside Hospital, and according to guidelines, no family member would be able to accompany him. We would be contacted by the physician when feasible. It was 5:00 PM on April 4, 2020 and we were now playing the waiting game.

Time is interminable when you are waiting to hear from a physician. The call finally came at 1:30 am Sunday morning. The surgeon explained that my husband needed emergency surgery in order to remove four blood clots from his right leg, re-establish circulation and hopefully save the leg. She explained further that there were two large incisions made in the right calf in order to prevent swelling. The great gift in the midst of this debacle was that the skill of the surgeon had apparently saved my husband’s leg. Gratitude overwhelmed me.

As I write this, he is in a rehabilitation facility where he will receive physical therapy which will hopefully enable him to use that leg again. The time in the rehab facility will also aid him in regaining some physical strength after being totally sidelined by Covid-19, that silent and mysterious killer which almost succeeded in its attack on us.

Today is Good Friday, 10 April 2020. Now, in addition to my newly perceived understanding of Lazarus, I have a lived experience of Good Friday and the suffering involved. Our God is a God of surprises, and even through this horrific experience, his love enveloped us in so many ways. The love and prayers of others, the food delivered to keep us strong, the courageous health care personnel, and the constant presence of our son, Sean, who became our caregiver, all coalesced together so that my husband and I could experience death and resurrection.

As I reflect on all that has happened, I feel that life is a series of deaths and resurrections, some more profound than others. Ultimately, I think I will be better prepared for my final death and resurrection because of this experience with Covid-19.

Our own Easter Sunday was unfolding. I am deeply grateful, overwhelmed by the many gifts in the midst of the chaos.  


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