Tag: covid19

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.

Covid Christmas: How to Make The 2020 Holidays a Little Brighter

Exceptional times require an exceptional response. While every day is special, here are some suggestions for making this challenging holiday season a little brighter — with twinkling lights, greenery, music, movies, food, and gifts that make the season bright. Happy holidays, happy new year, and many blessings to you and yours. 

For the animals, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

How to Reduce Pandemic-Related Plastic Pollution

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • there has been an unprecedented demand for masks, gloves, and gowns;
  • plastic-free swaps like reusable grocery, produce bags, mugs, and food containers have been banned;
  • the plastics industry is using this moment to stoke fears about reusables and lobby to reverse single-use-plastic legislation;
  •  oil prices have plummeted, making plastic — a petroleum product — cheap to make; 
  • municipalities around the world have curtailed their recycling schemes since it’s cheaper to make virgin plastic;
  • the locked-down masses have been panic-buying, online-shopping, and consuming home deliveries from restaurants in record numbers — adding to plastic pollution. 

What’s a conscious consumer to do? Is it possible to reduce our plastic consumption when we’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic? Can we still aspire to be low-waste or zero-waste (which was already aspirational in the best of times)? Take a listen to this episode for tips on reducing your plastic consumption when it comes to: 

  • Restaurant Take-Out
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Hand Sanitizers
  • Cleaning Products
  • Ordering Online
  • Properly Disposing Plastic Waste

Enjoy some ideas for reducing plastic waste at home and in your own life.

How the Pandemic Has Made Mourning So Hard

My mother died in a nursing home 3,000 miles from me with a nurse but no family by her side. She was declining by the time the Covid-19 pandemic halted us in our tracks and made it impossible for me to fly from California to New Jersey to be with her in her final days.

 

Grieving is hard. Grieving the death of a parent even harder. Grieving without the usual end-of-life rites and rituals has been impossible. 

 

In my past experiences with death, I learned that aspects of the dying process made the mourning process a little easier — less disorienting, less chaotic. Keeping vigil, sharing memories, watching, waiting, and witnessing all provided an anchor for the grief that was to come. I knew where to go next because I knew where I had been, but not so with the death of my mother. 

 

Getting a phone call in the dead of night is not the same as being able to see her, touch her, say goodbye, watch her go. Calling her friends and family to share the sad news is no substitute for gathering to reminisce and memorialize her life. Walking out my front door and stumbling upon the box that contained her ashes was a blow — not a consolation. 

 

The lack of closure has left a fissure that I’ve come to realize can only be filled with some familiar rites of passage — delayed and altered though they may be. I told a friend that — jarring though it can be to see the notice pop up on my phone — I still haven’t been able to delete the calendar reminder for the weekly video calls I once had with my mother and her nurse’s aide. My friend suggested I keep it for now and create a new weekly ritual of memory and meaning. 

 

And so I have. And so it helps — as did writing her obituary and creating a memorial photo album. But there is more to do. 

 

Before she fell ill, my mother and I talked about what she wanted me to do with her ashes once she was cremated. Ever practical, she argued that she’d be gone and wouldn’t know the difference, so whatever was meaningful for me — the living — should take precedence. 

 

Prior to my mother’s death, my husband and I had already begun making our own final plans, and after much thought and many conversations, we decided on a grave in Oakland’s historic Mountain View Cemetery — a special place we frequented before the pandemic closed it to the public. My mother’s death accelerated our contemplation and finalized our decision. The process has been a long one, but it’s already bringing some much-needed closure.

While my mother didn’t have much to say about where her ashes would eternally reside, she did have some very specific thoughts about her memorial service: she wanted there to be photos and stories, laughter and music, and she wanted a bagpiper to play — among other songs — Danny Boy. Some friends have vowed to join us for the interment — safely distanced and responsibly masked — and never before have I been so eager to fulfill a wish. 

 

With her subsequent service and burial, I’m not looking to “get over” my mother’s death as I am looking to “get over” on the other side of the chasm that has been looming for months. It turns out that we humans — and even some non-humans — create death rites and rituals for a reason — to comfort the living and usher us through the grief process. Without that bridge, mourning just feels like an unhealed wound or an unfallen shoe.

They Killed Him, and It Broke Us, and It Should Have

Our country has been a tinderbox for decades — and the last three-and-a-half years have been a slow, steady, daily burn of anxiety, dread, anger, and pain.

Adding severe strain to an already volatile situation and vulnerable population, a deadly pandemic came along and pressed us even more. Job loss. Fear. Insecurity. Isolation. Debt. Disparity. Disease. Death.⁠

Severing our already-tenuous connections — as fellow Americans, as fellow human beings — we chose divisiveness, disdain, denial, mockery, and blame. Mirroring a small, selfish Twitter troll, we became no better in our rhetoric, perspective, and actions. ⁠

And then…George Floyd. They killed him, and it broke us. And it should have.⁠

[Tweet “George Floyd. They killed him, and it broke us. And it should have.⁠”]

But it is precisely our shared shock, sadness, and outrage that have the potential to put us together again. We are not indifferent. We are not complacent. We are not apathetic. We witnessed. We saw. We snapped — understandably so. ⁠
⁠⁠
It is exactly because our vision, our expectation, our hope for a just and compassionate world has been thwarted that our anger is fueled. If we didn’t believe such a world was possible — and self-evident — we would be indifferent. ⁠

But we are not. And for that I am grateful. In that I am hopeful. ⁠

The question now is not “What have we done?” But “What will we do?” “What do we want?” and “Who do we want to be?”

The answers to these questions reflect our character and determine our destiny — both individually and collectively — and I’m both terrified and hopeful for the future. ⁠

It’s in our hands. And no one else’s. It always has been. And it always will be.  

How to Create an Intentional Daily Routine — During Quarantine or Anytime!

Creating a daily routine is essential even if we weren’t quarantined, sheltering in place, and physically distancing from one another. (Has anyone coined “Quar-routine” yet?) 

In a previous episode called “50 Ways to Create a Meaningful Life,” I promised I would break out some of the items into their own individual episodes, and so here we are. 

In this episode, I share 10 ways I organize my day so as to ensure that I have as joyful and meaningful a day as possible. (And when I falter…how a routine helps me re-set the day.) 

I can’t wait to hear about your routine! Take a listen, and drop me a line. 

How Do You Want to Spend This Time?

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

My absolute, absolute favorite quote from The Fellowship of the Ring. (I include it in the beginning of chapter 9 in The Joyful Vegan.)

It’s timeless, and it’s timely.

Of course, we should be considering this every day — not just in a time of crisis like we’re experiencing now. But while our lives are disrupted and we’re physically (and painfully) distancing from one another, it sure seems like a good time to ratchet that up.

J.R.R. Tolkein wrote Lord of the Rings several years after returning from the First World War — during which time he witnessed death and suffering beyond what most of us can even imagine, including the slaughter of his dearest friends, and survived trench fever and many illnesses that he contracted from his time in the cold, wet, lice-infested trenches.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

I’m not saying we have to pressure ourselves to write the next great novel or find a cure for the coronavirus pandemic, but creating some parameters around this time may be helpful, useful, and meaningful.

In other words, what can we do now so that when we look back 6 or 12 months from now, we can say, “I’m glad I did that” or “I’m proud of how I used that time”?

It might be

  • reading Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, because…Gandalf!
  • reading any book you’ve been meaning to read
  • watching a documentary series
  • decluttering your house
  • planting a garden
  • learning to bake bread
  • or … writing the next great novel

What you choose to do is up to you, and that’s the point. What do you want to do now so you can look back months from now and be happy or proud or satisfied with what you decided?

Time is going to pass anyway. How do you want to spend 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

Animals and Coronavirus: Poaching and Eating Wild Animals

Join me for this Food for Thought podcast series that examines what the covid-19 / coronavirus virus means for non-human animals and the habits, laws, and policies that affect our treatment of them. The first episode in the series focuses on wild animals who are poached, farmed, and eaten.

The source for the recent coronavirus outbreak that has led to a devastating worldwide pandemic has been linked to a market in mainland China, where wild animals are sold and killed for human consumption. China has said it will permanently ban the consumption of animals, but many questions remain.

  • Will this virus put an end to the illegal wildlife trade in China and Southeast Asia?
  • Will the wildlife farms in China reopen once the pandemic is over?
  • Will this be the end to live animal markets and wet markets where wild and domesticated animals are sold and killed for meat?
  • Will China close the loopholes (such as exemptions for fur and Traditional Chinese Medicine) that exist in their bans on wildlife poaching and consumption?
  • Will good come out of this devastation?
  • Is there anything you can do to help make a difference?

Listen to this listener-supported episode as I attempt to answer these questions. (become a supporter at patreon.com/colleenpatrickgoudreau)

HOW TO LISTEN / SUBSCRIBE TO FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

  1. Click PLAY on the player below
  2. Listen and subscribe through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Soundcloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT IS A LISTENER SUPPORTED PODCAST. Please become a supporter today!

Issues addressed in this episode

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Illegal Wildlife Trade
  • Poaching
  • Wet Markets
  • Live Animal Markets
  • Bear Bile Farming / Farms
  • Wild Animal Farming 
  • Wildlife Protection Laws in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries
  • Covid-19 / Coronavirus Pandemic
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Zoonotic Diseases 

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