What chicken wings taught me about living

This article was originally published on the Freed-Hardeman University Beyond the Tassel college alumni blog series.

That this is what we fear — no sight, no sound, 
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anesthetic from which none come round.

“Aubade” by Philip Larkin

Here we are, navigating the choppy waters of what seems like a never-ending global pandemic. While hope remains firmly planted on the horizon, it’s out of focus at times, cloudy with variants and surges. I know it’s far too early to “call it,” but with vaccines, we are thankfully doing some damage to Covid-19. We are cautiously and optimistically making our best efforts to return to all the things we so casually took for granted before 2020.

But are we truly getting back to all the things? Like we once were? Undoubtedly, this challenge has altered us in some ways—some good, some bad. Many of us have reconnected to a passion or recommitted ourselves to our families, our friends, and our faith. That’s all good stuff. 

For others, however, a once sparkling, colorful world has lost its luster. Wherever you are on the spectrum of fear to freedom, the world now can feel like an awkward, new space that is foreign, gray, and hollow.

For my college-age son, who had Covid-19 last year, this world has been exceedingly bland. He completely lost his taste and smell for more than six months. The aftermath has been tough on him. When I tell you that this young man has a deep, personal relationship with chicken wings, I am not kidding. He experienced a sudden break-up with food with no promise it would ever return.

In perspective with the tragic toll of the disease, losses like this are nothing. Even so, the slightest ripple effects are effects we’re learning to live with. Thankfully, after too many months of this void, my son’s senses are waking up from hibernation.

But just like our own current reality, life is different for him. He doesn’t love hamburgers anymore. Scrambled eggs are a chore. Special desserts aren’t that special now. Fortunately, chicken wings have made a comeback (the spicier, the better!), but there’s still something missing. The vibrancy in flavors is somehow less. His cravings aren’t the same.

I believe our cravings have changed too. I’ve noticed an unfortunate chilling effect on our craving for community. It seems simpler now to do everything remote, right? We’ve discovered we can worship, or study, or teach, or talk, or sing, or laugh, without ever leaving the couch. If we want to, we can depend solely on emojis to express how we feel. That is utterly 😩.

Let’s be honest. It got easy to do everything from a comfortable, sanitized distance. Too easy. And life is hard. Maybe this is better? What’s the big deal?

Here’s why I believe it’s a massive deal. 

If we choose to accept this and chalk it up to “everything’s changed since Covid,” and “life will never be the same,” then: 

1) Satan gets a foothold. Spoiler Alert: Satan loses in the end, but this virus has proven to be a crafty, divisive weapon against our churches, our families, and our relationships; and

2) We’re not giving God enough credit. We’re choosing to settle for a flavorless, flat world of our own making, not His.

God showers us with the most wonderful things to enjoy— to touch, to smell, to see, to taste, and to feel! Most importantly, he gives us each other. Despite what you’ve seen on TV, most people are still amazing!

As I approach my 50th birthday this year (ouch), I’ll admit the big picture has become clearer. Hindsight is a remarkable gift. During these grueling months of global loss, I witnessed and experienced personal loss too. In my college alumni family, we lost far too many incredible souls too soon. 

One of my best college friends unexpectedly passed from a non-Covid related illness. Sadly, we were out of touch for years. We had recently reconnected on social media, but I let the busyness of life keep me from reaching out to him sooner. I have deep regrets about that missed opportunity for a reunion this side of Heaven. 

It’s regret that resonates so clearly with me now. As we strive to move on and out of Covid captivity, I’m vowing to pursue more of the messy, but meaningful moments in person. Even when they infringe upon my comfort zone, even when I have to get in my car or put on make-up, even when they require more of me—who cares? These moments may not achieve Instagram perfection, but thank goodness they will be real. They are the best part of what we’ve got here for as long as we’ve got it. 

While this world is not our home, I believe it’s a 5-D preview of what’s to come, an infinitely small taste of Heaven. It’s up to us to get out there and savor it. 

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! 

Psalms 34:8 (NLT)

Surviving Covid-19: When Your Worst-Case Scenario is the Scenario

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.

One week ago, I was hopeful that my family would be turning the corner back toward normal in just a few days—normal being a relative term these days, of course.

To rewind, my husband, a high school football coach, had been quarantined from our family and others for several days following Covid-19 exposure. Sadly, he had to miss coaching a game for the first time in 22 years.

Before that quarantine was up, he had some flu-like symptoms, but after two negative Covid tests and no more fever, we all thought it was safe for him to get back to work. A new week was beginning, and we would hit reset then, right?

Wrong. Our worst-case scenario was only beginning.

After he got cleared to coach a football game last Friday night, he woke up Saturday feeling horrible. That same day, I had him check his oxygen level with a small device that my Dad sent to us over six months ago. Truthfully, I thought it was one of those weird items that your parents buy on QVC. I had stuck it in the back of the bathroom closet and forgot about it.

But then I remembered hearing that low oxygen levels are a telltale warning sign with Covid, so I dug it out of the closet. My husband’s oxygen level that day was 95. It was lower than what you want to see, but still in the safe zone.

Not the Friday Night Lights we hoped for as my husband attempts to assist in coaching while quarantined in his Suburban.

On Sunday, his hacking cough never seemed to end, and he could barely talk. So we checked it again. This time it was 92. I decided to call a physician who recommended he see a doctor in the morning to confirm the reading and seek necessary care. Suddenly we were preparing for bad news—what if he did have Covid-19 after all?

At 8 a.m. the next morning, his oxygen level read 86. It was time to go to the doctor and accept the strong possibility that his Covid test had been wrong. By the time he got to the doctor’s office, his oxygen number had plummeted to 81. He was sent straight to the ER where he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Covid-19. I know now that my Dad’s gift may have saved my husband’s life.

For the next three days, he remained at the hospital in isolation from us and anyone else except an excellent team of healthcare professionals. He received an intensive protocol of oxygen, breathing treatments, Remdesivir, antibiotics, and steroids. He wasn’t put on a respirator because he had no underlying health issues and was breathing well enough on his own. In just a few days, he made huge leaps and was home with us again.

Unfortunately, coming home was hardly the caboose of this crazy train.

For starters, we remain completely separated from him as he continues to heal. I have not slept in our bed for almost a month. To be anywhere near my husband to deliver food or medicine, we both wear masks while he stays far away. He can have no interaction with us except through doors or our cell phones. It also means that we’re back to a quarantine lifestyle outside of the house too. So yes, that means high school homeschool has resumed—groan.

To make things much, much worse, this all happened during football season, meaning that everything has been shut down for two weeks. Two big games are now gone. Memories and opportunities for my son and his teammates are now gone. Many lives have had to change their plans because Covid had plans of its own. I seriously couldn’t have written a more depressing story. For us, it feels like the worst-case scenario came true.

Thankfully, despite all this doom and gloom, I know that our scenario truly wasn’t the absolute worst. My husband survived and everyone is fine, even as our story continues to unfold. We are still living in this story and learning a lot about the disease, our attitudes, our priorities, and our survival skills. We’re also learning more about God’s mercy, our faith, and the value of community.

Regarding our relationship with the disease, my 20-year old son also had Covid two months ago, and he still hasn’t regained 100% of his taste and smell. I sincerely hope that the worst is over for this household. I believe we will overcome it, but what that looks like is out of focus. I wish I could be more optimistic, but we are a long way from the days of toilet paper memes. Weren’t those the best days?

I think it’s now probably safe to say that this virus may be inevitable if you’re going to be out and about among the living. We should continue to exercise common sense and precautions, of course, but I think it’s far more tenacious than I ever imagined. It honestly sucks. 

In full transparency, I’ll share what the sucky side of Covid life looks like at our house right now.

I make everyone sanitize their hands all day long and I bleach clean everything constantly. Our home smells like a hospital. I’m tired of choking down huge vitamins.

I’m a cranky and unimaginative cook. No one wants leftovers, and we fuss a lot about food. I yell things like, “no one cooks full meals during the day unless they’re Amish!

I’ve lost my home office (aka the master bedroom), and have had to call clients from the laundry room this week.

My boys miss watching and talking football with their Dad. We all miss hugs and physical touch.

My husband misses social contact. I honestly don’t know how he’s made it in isolation this long. He mostly spends his days alone despite our best efforts to remind him we’re here.

Even our two cats know that something is up, and they’ve been sleeping in weird places. Yesterday I stepped on a fresh hairball in the living room with bare feet. That was a low point.

We’re all more sensitive and irritable and prone to complain about anything. No one is sleeping on a regular schedule. It just seems impossible given the circumstances.

It’s very easy to slip into pity party thinking when that’s the only party you’re attending at the moment.

On a positive note, and there is one, we have also received incredible support from near and far. We can’t figure out why, but apparently, people love us! In an ironic twist, the most viral thing we have ever done as a family is to come down with a killer virus, no pun intended (okay, actually it’s a perfect pun).

Not that I recommend catching Covid-19 to be reminded of how many friends you have, but it has given us a beautiful picture of the people in our corner. While the last few weeks have been exhausting and disheartening at times, we have also felt such a powerful calm and confidence from the outpouring of support and prayers.

I am 100% convinced that our journey through this weird, dark place was strengthened and accelerated through prayer. Prayers, texts, calls, and gestures of kindness have brought us comfort in the face of uncertainty.

I know our story is just one of millions in this continuing saga. Our experience with Covid-19 has been an unfortunate, annoying setback that was scary for a short time. We do not take this for granted. Many families have not had the same outcome. This disease is random and relentless, but it will not define us as a family, a community, a country, and as people. 

We still get to choose how to respond to whatever it hurls at us. We aren’t perfect and will experience highs and lows as we process our response. But if I’ve learned anything while spending time with the ‘Rona, I’ve discovered that we are stronger than we think we are. God built us with incredible fortitude and He is always near. 

I am forever grateful to those who haven’t let us forget it.