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Surviving COVID-19 becomes a gift to share

Rich entered this past Lenten season with the desire to rejuvenate his relationship with Christ. He never imagined God’s plans for HOW that relationship would be rejuvenated.

Rich and Kelly both contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and came down with symptoms within hours of each other. Over the course of a week, Rich began to experience shortness of breath. He was eventually taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was placed on a ventilator. His wife, Kelly, was at a loss. She felt abandoned, isolated, angry and helpless. As a nurse, she had a difficult time not being at her husband’s side in the hospital. At a time when she needed her three grown children, she was in quarantine. She was very grateful for her parish priests who helped walk with her through phone conversations as well as dear family and friends who were her sounding board and helped to comfort her children when she could not. Rich remained on the ventilator for a week. There were great cheers when he was extubated. He was the first patient at their local hospital to successfully come off the ventilator. He was able to come home shortly before Easter. He never guessed that an experience like this would be just what he needed to rejuvenate his relationship with Christ.

Rich’s lessons Rich used an analogy between an analog TV and 4K HDTV to describe his experience with Christ.

“The core elements of my faith are no different,” said Rich. “Did I know God loved me? Yes. But, now it is sharper and more refined. With the 4K it sharpens the detail.”

As an example, 48 hours after returning home from the hospital, Rich experienced shortness of breath and a drop in oxygen saturation. He became very worried and agitated. He returned to the ER where he was eventually discharged after being kept overnight for observation.

“I was very anxious and wondered how I would know if I needed to go back to the hospital. I heard God say, ‘Rich, you will know when or if it’s time to go to the hospital. You didn’t know the first time and I took care of you. Remember what you learned in the hospital. Keep your eyes on me, trust in me. You don’t have to worry about trying to control the outcomes. I provided for every last thing that was needed to sustain your life last time. If it’s meant to be spared, it will be spared again as well.’ With that, a deep peace came over me and my anxiety left,” said Rich. “I have a richer understanding of God’s love. Every moment is different now.”

Another example Rich shared was recently his son borrowed his nice lawn mower. When he returned it, they couldn’t get it to start. They spent several hours together attempting to fix it.

“The ‘old Rich’ would have gone off the handle about how much money I had spent on this mower. Instead, what crossed my mind was seeing the gift I received in spending several hours with my son and being appreciative for having a yard to mow and the resources to purchase the mower in the first place,” said Rich.

God’s care for Rich and his family Kelly said their family has always been Rich’s priority. When he struggled to breath and was taken to the hospital, his thoughts were on his family and their well-being. When Rich was sedated and on the vent for two days, he indicated to his nurse that he wanted to write. She gave him a pen and he wrote, FAMILY?

“Even through all the sedation drugs while on the vent, he was concerned about his family,” said Kelly.

Kelly kept a journal during Rich’s stay at the hospital. Hearing her experience and talking with his children, Rich sees how God not only provided for his life but also how He provided for his family.

At the time of COVID-19, Kelly was just starting to put her trust in God. Her faith was shaken with a recent cancer diagnosis and then 16 months later hearing they didn’t get it all and she had to undergo another invasive surgery. On top of that stress, she was caring for her aging mother who resided in a care facility.

“Those 12 days Rich was in the hospital were the hardest days I have ever gone through,” said Kelly. It was like the worst nightmare you could possibly dream. Both of us had COVID, I’m high risk with my cancer history and as an asthmatic, Rich is on a ventilator, and I’m in quarantine and can’t be near him or our kids.”

The day after Rich was admitted into the hospital, Kelly was driving home after getting a COVID test. She was driving by some apartments where Kelly and Rich used to live and the song, If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli came on the Christian radio station. Music has played an important role in Kelly’s spiritual life and it is one of her favorite songs. The next song she heard was, Lord, I need you by Matt Maher.

“God was giving me a sign,” said Kelly. “I felt Rich was telling me he was fighting. Music is how I pray. It was a sign I could cling to.”

Meaningful songs kept playing her whole ride home. She listened intently to all the words. When Kelly got home she continued to sit in her car, not wanting the music to end. She was interrupted when her phone rang. It was the hospital seeking Kelly’s consent to start a PIC line.

“At the end of the conversation, I was crying. It just all hit me. I never thought at the age of 52, I would be making medical decisions for my unconscious husband. As soon as I hung up, the song, Burn the Ships by for KING & COUNTRY came on the radio. It even put a little smile on my face. It was Rich’s favorite song and he was always playing it. It was another sign from God. I felt Rich was with me. He knew what I was bearing. It gave me hope. I had to call the kids so they could see my hope.”

Rich shared how this was another 4K example of God’s great love. “So many people heard those same songs that day and they probably didn’t think much of them. But God reached out personally to Kelly because He had a message for her and it was so on cue.”

“I really needed a sign from God,” said Kelly. The songs, the lyrics, they provided me with calmness and peace. It was a confirmation to me that God was still here,” said Kelly. “It gave me hope.”

Rich explained, “Hope is not the point you feel things are better or going to be okay. Hope is the moment you realize Christ has never left you. He’s with you and He will never leave you and things are already okay. This was Kelly’s moment she received hope that God was with her.”

Kelly also received tremendous support from so many family and friends who showed their love. They reached out on a continual basis, even dropping food on her doorstep.

Rich was quick to point out God’s 4K love and how Christ showed up on her doorstep and provided for Kelly.

Rich and Kelly said the experience has changed their family and has brought them closer together.

“A month or so after I got home from the hospital, my son who suffers from anxiety and a medical condition shared that the experience showed him how fragile life is. He realized it was too fragile to get wrapped up so tightly in things that aren’t that important. He was able to start to relax and enjoy life more fully. He also shared he could better connect with God and his relationship with God wasn’t as formal,” said Rich.

“Going through this experience is the last thing I would want for my family to go through. I’d endure all of the physical pain and suffering again, if I knew it would bring so much healing for my son. Never in a million years would I think that amount of stress that he was under while I was sick would result in such a deep peace. It’s another example of how we have to keep our eyes on God and trust. We have no idea what God will do.”

Hands and feet of Christ Rich also saw Christ through all of his caretakers at the hospital.

“My caretakers were the hands and feet of Christ. Through their compassion and love, they reiterated the sacrificial love of Christ. They put on all of their protective equipment and came into that room to care for me. They risked their own lives as well as their family’s lives for me, someone they didn’t even know. It’s mind blowing! I have a much greater appreciation for what they do everyday. I’m not sure I could do that,” said Rich.

“One day after I was out of the ICU, a technician answered my call for help. When she came into my room, she could tell I had a lot on my mind. She sat right next to me and took the time to listen. When I proceeded to share my heart, she put her hand on my knee as a sign of comfort. I felt like God was sitting next to me, telling me it’s OK, I’m right here.”

“I have come to realize that God loves us beyond what we will ever understand. Because of this great love, we can put all our trust in Him. I have heard him say, ‘Keep your eyes on me and my call for you. You don’t have to worry about the outcomes. Just follow me.’”

“It’s all about directing our whole life to God. It sounds easy but we all know how challenging it is because we want control. It’s like doing the back float. We can’t float until we put our head back and relax. When we relax and trust God, we will experience a level of peace, joy and love that is beyond all understanding!”

Reflection Questions

1. Rich said he never would have thought his son would experience such peace after going through such a stressful time. Have there been times you have seen God bring about unexpected results from a difficult situation?

2. How have you been the hands and feet of Christ? When have you experienced His hands and feet?

3. Have you felt hope during a challenging time? Describe what happened to instill hope within you.

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