Before I even get into this, I'm not planning on making this anything preachy and definitely not anything political. I know we're all divided on mask-wearing and the COVID vaccines, and I'm not here to tell you what to do with your life or what to believe. I'm not even going to tell you what I believe. But if you want to believe masks are going to help save us all along with the vaccine, that's your right and I respect it. If you want to believe masks are silencing us and the vaccine is an excuse for the government to microchip us, that's your right and I respect it.

This is just something I felt the need to get out/write about, for no other reason than I guess it's the only thing that makes sense to me right now. And here's a peek behind the curtain -- we're encouraged to write articles about things that are local to Northern New England. This didn't happen to one of my best friends here, it happened to one in Tulsa, but quite honestly the group I left behind there I consider family, so for ME, this happened locally.

Let me flashback to a year ago at this point, actually, real quick, because it's related to the story. This group I'm talking about -- we all went on a cruise together. A year ago today, we were about to head to Little French Key on Roatan Island in Honduras. We had a group chat going on just so we knew where all 8 of us were at any time on the boat -- who wanted to meet up for meals, who was planning on going to what activity, etc. THAT was our action in that group chat a year ago. Fun. Happiness. Joy.

The last couple of weeks, it's been nothing but support for one of us. I'm not using any names because I feel like this really isn't my story to tell, even though I'm telling it, but from my perspective. I'm calling this friend "F" (for friend, duh). Within the last month or so, F had messaged the group that her and her cousin had both been hit with COVID (her cousin was also on the cruise with us), but they were doing ok, just felt awful.

A week or so later, she had messaged us to tell us her parents had both come down with it, as well. Maybe a day or 2 later, she said that her parents had both gotten hit by it so hard that they both landed in the hospital. Shortly after, F's dad got cleared to go home and recoup, but her mom wasn't out of the woods yet and needed to stay a bit longer.

What happened in that group chat for the next few weeks were updates on F's mom. Regular updates -- very up and down updates. One update would be that she was on the right track and making improvements as far as her oxygen levels go. The next update would be that F's mom had a setback and needed a vent. Then two vents. Then she improved enough to only need one. But then she wasn't getting any better, and it was decided she needed to be air-transported to another hospital that would take her as a patient so she could undergo a tracheotomy.

Now, honestly, at this point, I wasn't even close to believing the outcome would be what it ended up becoming. Because ironically, around this time of getting hopeful update after a setback update followed by another hopeful update and then another setback, I had read an article or two about people who were hospitalized for 50+ days who were just as up and down as F's mom had been, even to the point that I believe one of them was in a coma for a bit (medically induced, I think), and had made a recovery and was able to go home. Not once did I ever think that F's mom wouldn't go down a similar path.

The surgery was successful and the doctor told F's dad that they hoped to lighten up on her mom's sedation within a few days and get her up to start doing some different activities. Unfortunately, that point never came. The next week or so following the surgery were updates of how F's mom's oxygen stats were a bit low, then almost full capacity, then low again -- the same up and down it had been for a little bit. Then for a few days, she was pretty steady.

Then Tuesday, I woke up from a nap to the second-worst text that has ever been sent in our group chat. Which, again, a year ago and throughout the year up until this all started, had been nothing but positivity, fun, and enjoyment. F messaged us to say that her mom's oxygen level had fallen so drastically low that the only thing keeping her on this side of the rainbow bridge was the vent, and that wasn't a life her mom wanted. So they had decided the following morning to drive to the hospital to remove the vent.

Then, yesterday, came the worst text that's ever been sent in that group -- F's mom passed away in the early evening hours. This wasn't a woman in her 80s that was compromised, this was a healthy woman in her 50s. F's mom was a sweetheart. Actually, F's whole family is made up of sweethearts. But F's parents were always amazing to me. I spent the night hanging out with them one night when a group of us went out for drinks (pre-pandemic) -- a group of people in their 30s, and I was hanging out with F's parents instead (who acted like they were in their 30s, so they fit right in).

Both of F's parents came to my going away party in Tulsa the weekend before I came back home. They didn't have to do that, but they did. That's the kind of people F's parents are. In fact, while her mom was in the hospital still, F went to her parents' house for dinner and drinks, and she sent the chat a picture of her dad sitting in his chair smoking a cigar. F told me her dad said I should be there.

THAT'S the kind of people F's parents are. That's the kind of person F's mom was. Huge-hearted. Sweet. Giving. Kind.

But do you know who doesn't care about any of that? COVID. COVID doesn't care how old you are, whether you're compromised or not, whether you're one of the best humans on the planet or not -- COVID couldn't careless. It proved it by taking a really incredible woman. And this entire time, I've been trying to be extra supportive of F, because I kept mentally putting myself in her shoes, and if it was MY mom going through that, I'd be freaking out. I'd be an absolute mess.

So, I said I wouldn't be preachy at the start of this article. And I'm not going back on my world. But what I AM saying to you right now, is for the love of God or whoever or whatever you believe in -- Be SMART. Be SAFE. Watching F go through this and not being able to help -- her texting me last night "I wish there was something you could do too but there's not." broke my heart for her. That's a text I don't want anyone to ever have to send ever. And her completely clear to me pain, whether she thinks she's showing it or not, isn't something I want you or anyone else to have to go through, either.

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