Mrs. Kelly Barnes, Guest Columnist

                                  I lost a family member to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was my great uncle Wayne. He was 84, and he was my grandpa’s sister’s husband. He and my great aunt Betty had always been really close to us because they were really good friends with my grandpa, and I lived with my grandpa. He was a great, genuine, honest and kind person and an important part of my life.

My uncle Wayne actually married me and Mr. Barnes. He was a pastor, so he was the one who officiated the ceremony. When I was a little kid, he married my mom and dad, and my aunt and uncle. He married everybody. That is what he just always did. When I was a little kid, I made him promise that when I got older that he would marry me. Ours was the very last ceremony that he did before he retired from doing weddings. On our wedding day, he was so nervous. He was more nervous than we were on our wedding day. He was so nervous that he jumbled our vows. It was such a genuine loving moment to have him there with me to have him fulfill that promise after all those years.

He had been in the hospital for a few months, he had pneumonia. He needed breathing treatments and was not really well. After he had spent some time recovering, they decided to send him to a rehab facility to get his strength back. While he was there, he caught covid. He was then sent back to the hospital and they were quarantining him early on in March of last year. We hadn’t seen him for three months when he died because he couldn’t see anybody. The only thing we could do was call and try talking to him, but at that point he wasn’t really responsive. He was just so sick and we really didn’t have any ability to be with him. For three months, his wife didn’t see him, his children didn’t see him, not his grandkids, us, no one. All we did was try to call and say something.

We haven’t done anything to commemorate him yet. A lot of the reason was that at the time we wanted to celebrate his life. He was always someone who was there for all the major events in our lives. If we were in the hospital, he was there. If anyone had surgery, he was there. For us to not be able to be there with him, it felt like such horrible sad irony. His son said they wanted to wait to have a service where we could all be there. It wouldn’t have been fair that there were only ten of us there.

It’s been really hard especially since my father has just passed away. We were very blessed that I was able to be with him. A week prior, the hospital wasn’t allowing any visitors in, but when he went to the hospital my mom was able to be with him. She was there every day during visiting hours and it was only one person allowed at the time. So on the day that he died they allowed me to be with him. Because I was a risk to them, I didn’t want to see my parents. I feel like we missed a lot of time together that we could’ve been together because I didn’t want to take that chance.

I think that we will never be the same after all this, this is going to change us forever. I think it’s made this generation grow up in a different way. I mean, no other generation since the 1900’s has had to deal with this. It’s just such a life altering experience. I think we just have to take the good and carry that with us, instead of focussing on the bad and what we’ve lost. Otherwise you’ll never be able to cherish the good memories.

We’re stronger than we realize. I’ve been so impressed by how well the students have adapted to it, because we had no idea how they would react. The students have done everything we’ve asked them to. They’ve adapted, they’ve changed. I think that really shows how much stronger we are than what we give ourselves credit for. We can do hard things, we can cope, we can get through them.