Life seems extra fragile in this COVID-19 world. Even with the most careful planning and protection, life can slip away in an instant. Rather than live in fear of death, however, I rely on the Lord’s promised word.
“For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:25)
“Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:9)
“And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them.” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:46)
My faith came to a head recently as our family faced the mortality of our dad as he fought for his life.
Testing Positive for COVID-19
My parents are Darrell and Darla Bushman. Our family’s COVID-19 story started when someone unknowingly becoming infected and unintentionally infected others. Sounds pretty typical, right?
Little Brooke caught the virus from a SPED classmate who attended school on Friday. Before her family was notified of the exposure, our family had a Sunday night family dinner because nearly all of my parents’ family was in Utah that weekend. We were only missing two sons-in-law working in other states and a granddaughter at college.
Mom sat by Brooke on the couch with grandmotherly care and attention. Brooke seemed extra tired and uninterested in her surroundings. When the gathering was over, Dannen lifted Brooke into the car, the Holy Ghost whispered to him that she was COVID-19 positive.
The next morning, Monday morning, the school called their family and confirmed her classmate had tested positive. Dannen and Claudia loaded up their whole family and went to get tested.
On Tuesday, they learned that almost everyone in their family tested positive for COVID-19. They immediately messaged the extended family the results. Only Dannen really experienced symptoms. The rest were positive and asymptomatic aside from some tasteless/smell-less symptoms.
On Wednesday, Mom began experiencing symptoms. Dad drove her to get tested that morning. On Thursday, her test results confirmed she has COVID-19.
On Thursday, Dad began feeling symptoms. He didn’t see any need to get tested since the dominoes were falling that direction.
On Friday evening, I began feeling symptoms. I’d planned to stay with Mom and Dad for just over two weeks sandwiched between a move from Hawaii to Texas. By this time, my husband had been in Texas for a month.
A few other family members had cold or flu-like symptoms and got tested for coronavirus but no one else in our family gathering tested positive for COVID-19. The only two people in our entire family who I worried about being adversely affected by COVID-19 both tested positive. The grandchild who caught the virus from a classmate has underlying medical conditions. The other person I worried about was Dad. He was in the highest mortality underlying condition category — age, type 2 diabetes, etc.
Our cousins’ uncle (who was in dad’s demographic) contracted the virus on a Saturday and was dead on Wednesday. Others we knew were sharing harrowing and fatal experiences with COVID-19. I began watching both parents with hypervigilance.
A Blessing with Promise
General Conference began on Saturday on the first weekend of October. Mom, Dad, and I lounged in the living room with fuzzy blankets and liquids for two days watching conference.
Saturday night, I felt fear for the first time when Dad stood up to walk from his chair to the bed and lost all his muscle strength. Mom and I helped him to bed and then I texted my brothers Donovan and Daylen to see if they could give Dad a priesthood blessing. While I waited for them to come to the house, my mind ran the gamut of emotions and expectations.
In the back of my mind, I expected COVID-19 to kill my dad. I knew Dad had lived a full and good life, a life made better and whole through the grace of Jesus Christ. I knew he’d lived longer than many beloved men in our family.
I knew that I believed the scriptures quoted above. I knew the Lord knows the details of our lives and when those lives are finished.
I realized that I’d asked my brothers to give Dad a blessing so I could hear the will of the Lord outside of my own chaotic emotions and desires.
A few minutes before I expected them to arrive, I told Dad what I had done to make sure that was okay with him. He said he would like a priesthood blessing.
Despite the peril of walking into Coronaville, my brothers came. They were masked up, concerned, and ready to serve. They gave dad a powerful priesthood blessing which I felt prompted to record. The blessing promised that Dad could be completely healed and said that Dad had not finished his work on Earth.
I totally believed the words of that blessing and expected Dad to begin recovering. I played the blessing for Dad a couple of times during hard days to remind him of the Lord’s promises to him.
Navigating COVID-19 Symptoms
Our common symptom was fatigue. The virus seriously knocked us flat energy-wise. Then Mom began bouncing back. Dad didn’t. In all fairness, Mom is the healthiest person in our family and the person I least expected to have long-term impacts (though when I first heard she had the virus, my heart dropped because I knew this deadly virus had taken so many healthy lives).
Dad began spending his days lying in bed trying to deal with severe COVID-19 symptoms. At one point he said he could feel where every bone in his body connected to another bone. We reasoned Dad was a day or so behind mom and he would back bounce more slowly. But eventually, we had to admit he wasn’t bouncing back at all. He was declining rapidly.
My sister Destinee had coworkers who kept insisting we get an oximeter to test everyone’s oxygen saturation. I had one on my phone so checked our levels regularly. I honestly didn’t know how accurate it was but since our levels were in the high 90s, we felt that was fine.
Eight days into dad’s coronavirus experience, on Friday, Destinee messaged us asking if we’d gotten an oximeter yet. We hadn’t. When I tried to check dad’s levels on my phone, I really had to struggle to keep his finger over the sensor. When we finally got a reading, his oxygen saturation level had dropped below 90. Mom’s was 97. Mine was 96. Dad’s was 88.
Around that same time, Claudia messaged to see if we needed anything. I asked if she could buy an oximeter and bring it to us. She did.
We tested Dad. Testing on the oximeter was way easier than on my phone. By then he was at 84. Mom and I were basically the same as my phone’s reading; it was a relief to me to know I hadn’t been deceived.
But Dad… Dad’s reading dropped again. The oximeter read “82.”
Mom and I talked as we looked at Dad on his bed. He’d been largely unresponsive. We knew we needed to take him to the emergency room.
The Emergency Room
I pulled the car sideways on the driveway for easier access. Mom got Dad into some comfy pajama bottoms. We tried to get slippers on his feet but finally gave up and told him to walk barefoot to the car. Then we spent the next 10 minutes on the usually 20-second journey from his bedroom to the driveway.
Dad kept becoming unresponsive as he walked. It was like he’d black out on his feet! He would take a couple of steps and then just become blank. I’d speak loudly and say, “OK, Dad, on three, we’re going to take a few more steps.” “OK, Dad, on three.” “OK, Dad, on three.”
My own COVID-19 body imploded with exhaustion. Mom was straining, too. “OK, Dad, on three.” “Good job. Two more steps.” “OK, Dad, on three.”
And then he crumpled into the passenger seat. Mom got him situated. I ran into the house to shut doors and turn off lights.
And away we went to the hospital. We hadn’t taken a moment to text the family what was happening. Less than a minute into our drive, my nephew Austin called his grandma to see how she and Grandpa were doing. She unloaded the news on him. He told his parents and the messages sprang into action. That was such a tender mercy for us to have Austin’s call at that moment.
We quickly arrived at the hospital (it’s not far from my parents’ home). We talked out a plan as we drove into the ER area. Mom jumped out immediately when I stopped. I unbuckled Dad and asked how he was. He made some wry comments. I told him I loved him.
Mom came out with a wheelchair. That surprised me. Where was the flurry of medical help? We got Dad into the wheelchair and mom wheeled him into the hospital to triage.
I parked and then went into the empty hospital lobby waiting area. I could see through the doors to where Mom spoke to triage and Dad sat in the chair. He looked so stony. He didn’t move at all.
I didn’t know what to expect, but Mom went with Dad back to a room. I was surprised. I still sat all alone and picked up the messaging thread to update everyone.
I looked up to see a nurse striding quickly to me. She said I couldn’t stay. They would let Mom stay with Dad, but I couldn’t stay. I drove back home.
I sat on the couch and cried. In my mind, Dad going to the hospital was a death sentence. I listened to dad’s blessing again. It rejuvenated my faith. I got up and started cleaning Mom and Dad’s bathroom to keep my mind busy.
A few hours after dropping Dad off at the ER, Mom called and said they were ready for pickup. At that point, doctors said his lungs had a little fluid but not COVID pneumonia. Dad came home with an oxygen tank, which was a new experience for the three of us. The nurse gave me a quick oxygen tank lesson as Dad got back in the car.
Dad was significantly improved! He walked by himself into the house. What a testament to oxygen’s impact on our bodies.
Trying to Manage COVID-19 Again from Home
The nurse told mom to call the oxygen company, which she called immediately. The employees are on-call, especially late on Friday nights. Mom and Dad were both trashed and it was so late, so I told them to go to bed and I’d wake them up when the oxygen guy arrived. I fell asleep while waiting on the couch. I’m half-deaf, so I worry about hearing things if I fall asleep.
Luckily, I jerked awake at the sound of the doorbell and ran to open the door. It was the oxygen guy. He asked if any of us had been exposed to the coronavirus and I was, like, “Um, yeah, we all have it.” He said every call he’d done that day had been to homes with COVID-19.
I woke up Mom and Dad and we put masks on and oxygen man gave us serious lessons on oxygen. We filled out tons of paperwork. He was there for almost two hours! But when he left, Dad had an oxygen machine and really long tubes so he could move around the house without a tank.
The ER doctor’s orders said to have Dad on 2 liters per minute (lpm). So we did and were super proud of that. Then suddenly, I felt a prompting to check dad’s oxygen saturation level. It was 82 on 2 lpm! Yikes!
Mom called the ER to see what we should do. They gave us better instructions about moving the oxygen amount as needed, up to 4 lpm. Dad’s saturation stabilized above 90 at 3.5 lpm and we all went to sleep.
Dad spent Saturday in bed. My brother set him up with access to watch the BYU football game and Dad watched football on a laptop in bed. He seemed to be improving.
He made a joke about living as long as the peach leaves stayed on the tree right outside his bedroom window, specifically one peach leaf. We said we’d paint a leaf on the window like in that sob story video “The Last Leaf.”
Dad is uber extroverted. Being stuck in any box for 10 days is excruciating for him. I messaged an invite for my siblings to come to say hi at his window. We bundled up the bed since it was a little chilly out and his kids and grandkids started visiting the window. Having eight kids means that even if visits are short, there are still a lot of them.
My siblings kept their visits short and usually, there were some good time gaps between them. Dad remained horizontal and not expected to entertain or do anything at all except give his characteristic wave, which is to hold his arm up with his hand flopped over.
Watching the window parade, I realized that Dad going to the ER similarly impacted my siblings, too.
The Emergency Room Part 2
Dannen and Claudia’s family were the last to visit late in the afternoon. Dad got out of bed to use the bathroom. Bathroom breaks were generally quite exhausting. When he didn’t come out as soon as expected, I volunteered Dannen to go see if Dad needed help. He helped dad get back in bed.
We checked the oximeter and dad’s oxygen was in the low 80s again. We waited to see if being in bed would help him recover, but it didn’t. We upped the oxygen to 4. Dad’s lungs didn’t respond to that. I pushed it to the machine’s limit at 5 but it didn’t increase Dad’s saturation.
We knew we had to take him to the ER again. Dad didn’t argue when we told him that news. Claudia loaded up their kids. Dannen helped me and Mom load up dad in the car. He rode with us to the hospital while Claudia closed up the house.
Again Mom ran into the hospital. This time a wheelchair came much more quickly. We got Dad and his oxygen tank out and Mom whisked him away to triage. I told Dad I loved him before he got out of the car.
When I parked the car, I realized I had forgotten to put shoes on. I knew the hospital staff wouldn’t let me in the hospital anyway, so stood barefoot peering through a window with Dannen. Claudia and her kids arrived. She messaged the family about what was happening.
Suddenly Mom came out and said they wouldn’t let her stay with Dad. What? We couldn’t believe it. Dannen went in to see if he could persuade them. Apparently letting Mom stay before was against policy and the Sunday night staff were in no mood to break policy.
We were totally blindsided as we suddenly realized we’d just dropped Dad off completely alone. We freaked out. We couldn’t drive away. We just stood at the ER door in disbelief. Cutting Dad off from people/his family/especially mom is torture.
Finally, probably since there were kiddos waiting patiently in a vehicle, we knew there wasn’t anything left to do. We went home.
The Transfer to the Veterans Hospital and COVID-19 Pneumonia
After an hour or so, the ER called Mom saying that Dad was being transferred to the Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake City by ambulance. That’s about an hour drive. Mom and I drove back to the hospital to give Dad their shared cell phone so Dad would have access to call. A nurse met mom to get the phone.
While driving out of the parking lot, we saw an ambulance driving in and knew it was for Dad, so I flipped a U-turn and parked where we could see the ambulance entrance. It felt like forever but suddenly the ambulance drivers emerged suited up for COVID-19. What a sight to see! Then they wheeled Dad out on a gurney and put him in the ambulance, and then they calmly drove away with our dad.
With no other recourse available, I posted my first social media post asking for prayers for Dad.
Since Dad now had Mom’s cell phone in Salt Lake City, my phone became the connection source to Dad and the hospital. My phone rang at 1:30 a.m. that first night with the first nurse check-in. I ran upstairs and woke up Mom so she could talk to the nurse. The VA hospital admitted Dad to a regular room, but because he had COVID-19 no one would be able to visit him. We were grateful for the check-in.
The Veterans Hospital staff were amazing at keeping us informed and answering questions. We appreciated all of their collective help at helping us understand the hopes and reality of Dad’s situation.
Dad’s Visitor Before ICU
On Monday morning, Dad told us he had a dream where his dad came to him. Dad said seeing his father was really comforting. Mom and I cried because we felt like that was a direct answer to our prayers that Dad wouldn’t feel or be alone. We also didn’t know if that was just a comforting moment or an omen that Grandpa was coming for Dad.
On Tuesday, a doctor called to tell us Dad was being moved to ICU because he did have COVID-19 pneumonia that was destabilizing his lungs. What a blow. We couldn’t believe it. ICU.
I think most of us thought ICU was a death sentence for Dad… But he didn’t die.
Our faith, hope, and prayers for Dad’s complete recovery continued despite the fact that we didn’t know what Dad needed to do to complete his work on the earth. We didn’t have any indication if his work would take a few days or years to complete.
The next day, a doctor called to let us know of Dad’s continual decline and his potential need to be on a ventilator. He talked to mom about medical power of attorney. He said Dad’s will was to be resuscitated as necessary and to fight for his life. We readily agreed with that.
Ventilator. The ventilator represented my deepest fear for Dad.
A Divine Hand During the Most Desperate Decline
That was the night I completely surrendered my will to God. I’d clung to the blessing promising complete healing, but I knew I had to let it go and place all my faith in the hands of God, regardless of what resulted. All.
Hundreds of friends and family were praying for Dad. I felt the power of their prayers sustaining us. It was so tangible. Mom and I were still kind of fragile ourselves and I felt strengthened from the sheer volume of support. What a blessed miracle!
I knelt in prayer thanking Heavenly Father for the prayers and positive vibes for Dad. I told Him the same thing I had prayed before — I knew Dad had lived a full and good life, a life made better and whole through the grace of Jesus Christ. I knew he’d lived longer than many beloved men in our family. I knew that I believed the scriptures quoted above. I knew the Lord knew the details of our lives and when those lives are finished. And I offered the clinging, afraid of loss, clutching-at-air part of myself to Him.
At that moment, He gave me a gift. In a very tangible way, I saw something in my mind’s eye that absolutely concreted my assurance in Dad’s recovery. I knew that with the Lord’s help, Dad would recover. I texted my family in the middle of the night of my experience.
The next day, Dad’s first day on the ventilator, the nurse exuberantly told mom, “He’s sitting up in his chair!” Through the nurse, Dad communicated to mom with the nurse asking questions and Dad communicating through shrugs and eye gestures. Then the nurse put the phone next to Dad, who couldn’t talk, but just listened, and Mom talked into space for an hour.
We rejoiced! That defied all of the odds. And Dad continued to improve — some days more than others — until on October 27th, a doctor asked mom when she could be in Salt Lake City to pick up Dad from the Veterans Hospital! She said she would leave right that minute. The doctor chuckled and said to give them an hour or so and they planned a time.
Picking Up Dad from the VA Hospital
Mom drove us to the VA hospital in record time. Destinee came over from her lab a few blocks away. We three waited for Dad together.
We saw some nurses wheeling someone in a wheelchair. Was that Dad? No, it couldn’t be. The man was so frail and hunched. Our dad filled the room when he entered it.
But it was Dad! We rushed to him. His eyes followed us but he didn’t physically react at all. One nurse gave mom and Destinee loads of instructions while the other nurse helped me load all of Dad’s new gear in the car.
Then we moved Dad from the wheelchair into the car and got the oxygen tank reconnected in the back seat. The nurse spoke to Dad in Spanish. Apparently, he’d served a mission in Chile too. Of course, Dad loved that.
We buckled Dad in, said goodbye to Destinee, and Mom drove off with her BFF at her side, so happy and glowing to have him back. Dad’s vitality increased as the realization that he was actually going home became more and more of a reality.
Recovering From COVID-19
Dad promised Mom he would recover and he’s challenged himself to overcome the obstacles he still faces. He’s working hard to make that happen. And it is happening, step by step and day by day.
There are several things we attribute to Dad’s steady progress.
- It was God’s will that Dad lives and finish his work on the earth.
- A multitude of prayers petitioned God for recovery and enabled divine assistance to prevail.
- Dad’s ward fasted and prayed for his recovery. That act of love brings Dad to tears every time he speaks of it.
- Dad’s siblings/in-laws sent encouraging and heartfelt messages. Mom and I read them all to Dad to help him not feel alone. They buoyed his soul during the especially trying times.
- Dad talked or listened to Mom every day. He needed that connection to her.
- Knowing that he was so loved and prayed for gave Dad the desire and strength to fight for survival. We are all so grateful for the outpouring of love, faith, and prayers.
“To Give You An Expected End”
During this same time frame, many friends and loved ones said goodbye to people they most love. Every day I deeply felt the juxtaposition of Dad’s life and other loved ones’ deaths.
The Lord’s words to Jeremiah encapsulated what I learned from the Spirit as I floundered between joy and grief during those days… and still.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
For He does know us and part of His eternal plan for our salvation includes mortality, a mortality of varying times and seasons. Our days are known and numbered to Him and when it’s our appointed time, He brings us home — home to Him. Home to the arms of His love and to the peace of His glory. Home.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.