It was time to remove my youngest brother Roy from life support. The medical team at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville had told us he had lost his battle with COVID-19. Two angelic Critical Care nurses led us to a waiting room while the ventilator that had kept him alive for several days was removed.
Following strict hospital protocols, we were allowed to spend a few final minutes with Roy. For this we were extremely grateful; too many families have been unable to say goodbye to loved ones dying of COVID. Eight family members, including Roy’s wife Jamia, whispered farewell, each in our own way.
Then we gathered around his bed, filling the spaces where the ventilator and other medical equipment had been, and in the few minutes it took him to breathe his last breath, we softly sang a few lyrics from his favorite hymns: “Amazing Grace,” “What a Day That Will Be,” “Lord, I’m Coming Home,” “Oh Come, Angel Band.”
On that morning, two weeks before Thanksgiving, a quiet peace descended over the room as the two Hospital Angels gently passed my brother on to the Heavenly Angels.
Roy was only 63, very active, with no serious underlying health conditions. For the past 22 years, he pastored a Baptist church in Athens, Tennessee. Prior to answering the call to full-time ministry, he was a Civil Engineer, specializing in environmental sciences, work that took him all over the world. (One of the major projects Roy worked on was at Eastman in Kingsport.) In addition to pastoring, he conducted a daily radio program and had made 13 mission trips abroad. He made a life that had meaning and purpose.
So, don’t anyone dare tell me COVID-19 is a hoax. Or that it isn’t real. Or that it’s no worse than the common cold or the flu. Or that wearing a face mask in public should be a personal choice.
You would have to beat lots of bushes and look behind a lot of doors to find anyone who believes in personal freedom more than I do. That’s how most of us are raised here in the mountains. And, along with personal freedom, we’re taught personal responsibility, which includes looking out for our neighbors. We certainly don’t participate in any action that could potentially do harm or even kill other people, like not wearing a mask in public during a national health emergency.
The overwhelming majority of health care professionals and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention tell us that wearing face coverings is one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s plain common sense that if you’re infected with a contagious disease—whether you know it or not—and then you cough, sneeze, or even breathe close to someone, you’ll likely spread the virus. We learned this in early grammar school, maybe even pre-school.
Yet, a small but vocal minority of citizens showed up recently at a local town board meeting, angrily protesting the possibility of a local mask mandate. Some even call a mandate to wear a mask communism, which would be comical if this was not so serious a matter.
A civilized society has rules and regulations in place for the good of its citizenry. Without them, civilization cannot exist. We stop at stop signs and red lights. We don’t yell fire in a crowded theater. We don’t fire a gun down main street. And then there’s that old saying: your rights stop where my nose begins.
I have no notion that any words I write, or anything anyone else could say, will convince those of you who are anti-mask to wear one. But I do have faith in the good people of this area. I believe that if you’ll find a quiet place and have a serious conversation with your conscience, you’ll come away with a different perspective.
After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.