A month ago, my mother lay in an ICU hospital bed, fighting for her life. She actually wasn't admitted with COVID, but rather dangerously low blood pressure and a high white blood cell count. A year ago, if she was admitted for this same diagnosis, she would have been treated and eventually released back to her to lovely little home. Family and friends would have been able to visit her while she healed, further improving her likelihood to physically and mentally heal and thus discharged back home.
But you know - COVID... As the federal government consistently modeled how to do everything possibly wrong in responding to an emerging pathogen, how to sow distrust and panic and how to blatantly ignore the largest health crisis affecting the country while hundreds of thousands of people died, my mother lost her ICU bed to a COVID patient. So while she followed all the rules, while she diligently followed precautions and stayed home, stayed safe, someone who failed to do all of these things was determined to be more worthy of the care she so desperately needed. And shortly after being moved out of ICU, she died.
The first few hours of living in a world where your mother no longer exists are surreal. Knowing that you continue to breathe, to live while the person who gave you life is simply gone is incomprehensible. And as a behaviour change agent, I felt I had failed her so miserably. For all my preaching about behaviour change and all that is needed to change people's minds and hearts, people's behaviours and people's actions for healthier and happier lives, it all failed to save my own mother. And the more I ruminated, the more I realized the absolute importance of ensuring that ALL levels of the social-ecological model are reached, that a community sees the result of each member's action(s) upon others, that we see that we are all so deeply rooted and connected and we must remember that our individual rights are completely intertwined with those around us.
When I was unable to attend my own mother's funeral due to lockdowns in the country where I live and the quarantines required to travel, I watched my mother be eulogized via Zoom. I was unable to be there when they emptied her house of her possessions and I lost the opportunity to save key mementoes and knick-knacks and items that we bought together, to go through her things and cry and tell stories about where we were when she brought this or that item home - those items were scattered across the homes of people who came to help empty the house or ended up in a dumpster. That loss of ritual, of endings, of basic comfort with those that knew and loved her - COVID robbed me of all these essential rites of mourning in addition to the repeated sting of being motherless.
If you are an anti-masker, think of all that you have to lose, think of how your actions affect not only you - but those you love, those you interact with, and even those you don't know but who are still part of your community. Put on a damn mask and stay home please - COVID is not concerned with your rights.
As a behaviour changer, I see that we have a long road ahead of us, but also one with a goal that is reachable once we see that we are all connected, we are all community, we are all one. I'll keep fighting - there is simply no other choice..