Tag: corona virus

Say “I Love You” Now

We don’t know when my mother (Arlene) had the stroke — probably when she had the surgery to replace one of our heart valves (2014?). I remember talking to her after she was home from the hospital recovering at her sweetheart’s house (my mother fell in love with Paul when she was 77), and she talked about how there were words she wanted to say…but couldn’t get them to come out of her mouth.

It took months and months for me to identify what it was. Everyone (except Paul) said it was Alzheimer’s (because her mother had it), but none of her symptoms matched. When I watched videos of people with Alzheimer’s, none of them reminded me of my mother struggling to speak.

And then I watched a video of a young woman who had had a head injury that resulted in aphasia — the inability to speak due to damage to the part of her brain that controlled language. I watched another. And another. And I just cried. That was exactly what my mother sounded like.

I arranged for her to start speech therapy, and it was confirmed she had aphasia, but it would have required a lot of really hard work for her to recover her speech. More than she was able to give. Unfortunately, it just got worse. Stroke-related dementia also started setting in, as did difficulty in moving her right leg, and swallowing.

Paul remained by her side, but it was harder and harder for her to maintain relationships, as she didn’t have the ability to call people on her own. She still lived in her condo in NJ but spent more and more time at Paul’s house. I found a day center where she would have activities and social engagement in a supportive environment. On her first day, I felt like a mother dropping off her child to her first day at kindergarten. I watched from where she couldn’t see me and kept checking in on her every 10 minutes. She started going 3 times a week.

Her last visit to California to stay with me and David was August 2015. She was 80 and so beautiful. She struggled to speak, and walking was getting harder for her. (Amazingly, she made it up the 100 steps to our front door!) And then it occurred to me…while she struggled to get those darn words to come out of her mouth, she could still read.

So, I wrote a little script for her, confirmed with her that it’s what she would have said had she written it, and set up a teleprompter for her so she could tell her friends in her own words that she missed them, wanted to hear from them, and was moving in with Paul. This video is the result.

In 2017, Paul, my mother’s primary caregiver, fell and sustained injuries that required hospitalization and in-patient physical therapy. I rushed back out to NJ and spent a very difficult week coming to terms with the fact that she needed round-the-clock care. In what was nothing other than a divine gift, I was able to move her into a stellar nursing home just 20 minutes from Paul’s house. While I spent a lot of time flying back to NJ to see her, I had a video call with her every week.

While receiving the most incredible care, Arlene continued to decline until she was unable to speak, walk, feed herself, or take care of herself in any way.  Swallowing was the most difficult, and she began to lose weight. In 2019, my mother began to receive hospice care. In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

She continued to weaken, and while I could see her in our video calls, I was unable to fly to NJ to be with her in person. On April 21, 2020 at 1:08 a.m. EST, my mother died. We know the time because she wasn’t alone when she passed. The night nurse was with her and held her hand as she breathed her last.

I had a very difficult relationship with my mother for decades. We never gave up trying to understand one another, and by 2010, I had had my epiphany…I stopped focusing on wishing she were the mother I wanted her to be. I just started being the daughter I wanted to be. And that’s when everything changed.

I have so many regrets that I know she wouldn’t want me to have. If she were here, she would touch my face and say “Don’t cry, Col,” though I know she’d be crying with me. I’m so grateful she was able to hear me say “I love you” many times — even when she wasn’t able to say it back. I’m certain she heard it just days before she died when I told her on our video call that it was okay for her to let go, to find peace. I told her I love her and that she was a good mother. With her eyes closed, she lifted her arm and reached toward my voice.

Don’t waste any time. If there’s something you need to say, say it now. And let it be “I love you.”

It’s a cliche until it’s not.

I love you, Mom. You’re in my heart always. After all, you’re the one who made it.

?⁠ Captive Animals, Captive Humans ?⁠

(I wrote this letter to the Washington Post in response to their article about animals in zoos during Coronavirus a couple days before a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for Covid-19.)

In reading the end of your article about how “some zoos and aquariums … are streaming live-feeds of their exhibits to keep the public connected to their animals,” I couldn’t help but see the irony in live-streaming videos of captive animals to the homes of captive humans.

The fact that zoonotic diseases like Covid-19 pass from animals to humans is another irony that should also not be lost on your readers. While Covid-19 (and SARS before it) originated in a live market where wild animals are kept to be sold for human consumption, it is precisely confinement of wild animals and their proximity to humans that increase the chances of zoonotic diseases passing between human and non-human animals.

Perhaps a silver lining in all of this will be a heightened awareness that other animals’ desire for freedom, life, autonomy, and self-determination is as strong as our own. If we’re frustrated by our temporary lack of mobility and independence, imagine how they feel.

We can admire birds in our backyards; watch bees pollinate flowers; or spot wild turkeys, deer, and lizards while on a hiking trail.

We can be captivated by animals without holding them captive.

~Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

?Writing (thoughtful, respectful) letters to editors of newspapers — locally, regionally, and nationally — is a wonderful way to be a voice for animals and helps you articulate your thoughts about a given subject.

?For more on animals and coronavirus, check out my series on the Food for Thought podcast about how the virus affects and is affected by non-human animals.

?Please feel free to share any or all of this letter.

Some related essays you might be interested in:

Animals and Coronavirus: Poaching and Eating Wild Animals

Coronavirus and the Lethal Gifts of Livestock

Vaccines Are a Bunch of Bull: Animal-Related Words for Diseases and Cures

3 Tips for Avoiding Animal Cruelty When Traveling

Coronavirus and the Lethal Gifts of Livestock

With the Coronavirus (or Covid-19) wreaking havoc on our society, we thought it was timely to rebroadcast this episode. Coronavirus is one of many zoonotic diseases — diseases that jump from non-human animals to human animals.  

A “wet market” in Wuhan, China, is most likely where this strain of the coronavirus started. At many “wet markets,” meat, poultry, and seafood are sold alongside live animals for consumption. It is our very consumption of animals and their products that has bestowed upon us what Guns, Germs, and Steel author Jared Diamond calls the “lethal gifts of livestock.” Our abuse of nature comes full-circle and at a heavy price for both the consumer and the consumed.

Being animals ourselves, it makes sense that we share many of the same diseases as our non-human cousins. We aren’t – after all – plants. We aren’t at risk for catching aphids or sooty mold or downy mildew.

In fact, many of the major killer pandemics we’ve been plagued with were acquired from non-human animals. Here are just a few:

we got tuberculosis from cattle, influenza from pigs and birds, whooping cough from pigs and dogs, smallpox from cattle, and of course cowpox from cows. Even HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is believed to have been first transmitted to humans through the butchering and consumption of infected chimpanzees.

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