This topic is so volatile it demands a disclaimer. My account does not intend to insult those who fear dying from this virus or be insensitive to those who have lost loved ones. I do not wish to diminish the threat it poses to vulnerable people, especially the elderly, or cheapen the sacrifice of health workers.
In addition, all COVID-19 cases are not equal. The spectrum spans from asymptomatic to deadly. Many have been infected. Some have died. Most survive.
My intention is to share my experience and explain why I refuse to live in fear of COVID-19. It may also help others overcome their fears based on my concrete experience.
First Reason: I have experienced worse cases of flu
As cases of flu go, my COVID-19 experience ranks about the fifth-worst in my life. My fever never went higher than 102 degrees. There were the typical chills and pains. My oxygen level did not go below 90, although my extremities did feel tingly. I felt some shortness of breath, similar to rushing up a short flight of steps. The only symptom that stood out was my nausea of food or even the thought of it. Thus, my case was a moderate one.
Such mild symptoms appeared in the overwhelming majority of the over twenty million COVID-19 cases. Only an estimated five percent of these were hospitalized.1 Most of the hospitalized victims survive. Thus, I never felt my life was threatened during my COVID-19 experience, unlike other moments in the past.
Second Reason: Brushes With Death Are Common Life Experiences
My second reason not to fear is that life is full of risks.
In my case, I had bouts of childhood asthma that left me gasping for air, not sure if the last breath was my final one. When a teenager, I witnessed a crime hoping the criminals would not turn on me. I faced numerous near-accidents on the road.
Everyone’s life is full of these episodes where if one small thing had gone wrong, things would have been disastrous or even life-threatening. We cannot live as if the sky is falling. Paranoia like this can paralyze society and civilization.
Third Reason: I Faced Death Twice
Another reason why I refuse to live in fear is that I have faced death twice.
When about six years old, I was rushed to the hospital with a terrible case of pneumonia. Many other children were in the same ward, and one boy, who was exactly my age, was among the many that did not make it.
As a result, my mother stayed by my bedside with a rosary, pleading to God for my healing. Though I only had a child’s notion of death, seeing her pray so earnestly gave me a point of reference for the gravity of my situation. It helped me grasp both how precious life is and how death is inevitable.
The second time I faced death was in November 2018 when a reckless driver tried to make a U-turn in the middle of the freeway, crossing over three lanes. This maneuver was so unexpected that I had no time to avoid his car. I slammed on the breaks and hit his car.
At the moment of impact, everything went black. I thought I was dead and awaited my judgment. However, the darkness was caused by the airbags covering the windows. By a miracle, I survived without a scratch. Neither the police, the EMT operators, nor the salvage tow operator could believe that I walked away uninjured.
These experiences were more terrifying than my bout with COVID-19. Thus, I refuse to live in fear of the things that almost killed me. It makes no sense to live in fear of something like COVID-19 that will not kill most of humanity. The media act as if it is the only cause of death.
Fourth Reason: I Try to be Spiritually Prepared for Death
My greatest concern during my illness was the lack of sacraments. When the coronavirus crisis broke out in March, there were reports of the faithful being denied Last Rites, Confession, or Holy Communion. Hospital regulations or state lockdown instructions often prohibited visits by priests. Much more afflictive were priests who refused to come or bishops who prevent them. A common argument was that it was imprudent for a priest to expose himself to COVID-19 because it would put him and the rest of his flock at risk. The message was clear. Abandon the sick sheep to protect the flock.
Thus, new stories reported on this sacramental denial. In Italy, priests were arrested for breaking the stay-at-home order. A friend in Brazil had to threaten legal action against the hospital for refusing a priest access to a dying man. Priests in the Philippines were not allowed to cross blockades.
My main concern during my illness was access to the salvific and consoling effects of the sacraments. I wondered if a local priest would come to my bedside if my illness took a turn for the worse. I felt that I might be a rejected sheep abandoned by Holy Mother Church when I needed Her the most. I could not imagine Jesus stepping away from the lepers who approached him. The health of the soul is much more important than that of the body.
To be fair, the coming of a priest was not put to the test in my case. However, I confided in the mercy of God that one would have rushed to my bedside if needed.
Fifth Reason: My Greatest Fear
The last reason why I refuse to live in fear of COVID-19 is that there is a fear that trumps all other concerns. This fear is the loss of God and eternal life.
Earthly life is temporary since all men are mortal. However, all souls are immortal. We live in a valley of tears where it is impossible to avoid suffering, illness, old age or death. Those who think they can live without suffering are wrong. Thus, I do not fear COVID-19 since life’s purpose is to prepare well for eternal life and not to escape the inevitable death.
The COVID-19 society now being constructed does not factor God into the equation. The result is a society built on the foundation of fear of death. Indeed, I do not inordinately fear COVID-19 but living in such a godless society is the fear that terrifies me the most.
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