There is a melancholy to this season for me, always. I think it makes me think of my own mortality and I always remember the cold November night, 40 years ago this year, that I lost my precious mother when I was only 21 years old.

This year feels even more melancholy, what with yet another divisive election coming up, wildfires burning out west, people out of work and out of options to pay their bills and of course, the pandemic.

It is never far from my thoughts.

My son has a number of health issues that make him a sitting duck for this virus. His most recent diagnosis was chronic heart failure. He is 35. If he gets COVID, odds are very high he might not survive it. I think of that every single day.

My little grandchildren are being homeschooled by my daughter and her husband has been working his office job from home since this whole thing started and for those things I am very grateful.

My husband, who also has health issues, faces a risk at work, but he wears a mask faithfully, washes his hands, uses hand sanitizer and socially distances. His strong stance about this (which is corporate policy) has caused some friction with some fellow employees, but he is a strong man, firm in his beliefs and he doesn’t want to endanger his health, or mine, any more than he has to.

I was recently diagnosed with adult-onset asthma and I have Crohns disease in my large intestine, which makes my immune system less than it should be. I am mindful of that and every decision I make is one I have thought out; risk versus benefit; just like any other decision in life, pretty much.

I recently visited my pulmonologist, who along with fellow members of his practice, manage COVID patients at our local hospitals.

Like most doctor’s offices, I was warned ahead of time to “mask up” which I do anyway anytime I am in public. Once I arrived, I was greeted at the door, my temperature taken, screening questions asked and then I had some paperwork to sign. Clipboards were cleaned between each use, I noticed, and very much appreciated. I was asked questions several more times as I made my way quickly through the system and back to a patient room.

I had had to see my doctor’s PA over the summer since the rates were so high in this area the doctors were not coming into the office to limit any chance of infection, so I was glad to get to see my physician.

During my exam, the doctor asked me to remove my mask briefly and “hold my breath” while he glanced up my nose and down my throat.

After the exam was done and we sat down for a consultation, I shared with him how most folks in my community do not seem to be taking the virus seriously and that I see few masks anywhere I go locally, though I see more when I come into Athens or travel to other places generally.

“Really?” he said, almost as if he couldn’t believe me. I guess he sees it and lives it so much that he found it difficult to think that members of the population are still out there who are not inclined to feel the same way, even though most of us by now know at least one person who has been very sick and also know of someone who has died from the disease.

I answered him that I was telling the truth and told him that I had had several folks tell me it was all blown out of proportion by the media and a few had even gone so far as to laugh and say it was not real, all just a hoax that would be over “after the election.”

(Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were true?)

At that point he put his pen down and looked me in the eye. “I have signed a lot of death certificates over the past few months due to that ‘hoax,’” he said. It gave me chills. “Maybe those folks should follow me around one day,” he added.

He then went on to tell me to continue to wear my mask, wash my hands, use hand sanitizer, socially distance and avoid social situations as much as possible, particularly with those who I know don’t take the pandemic seriously.

He said he has been pleasantly surprised that the numbers have remained stable this fall even as the university has resumed classes and some school systems have started back. He also said he didn’t expect that to last, pointing out the rise of another wave of infections in Europe and the Midwest here in the USA. He said he thinks as it gets colder here and as folks congregate inside in the dryer air of winter, especially during the holidays, he thinks it will get much worse here.

Now, I have listened to Dr. Anthony Fauci and will continue to do so as he is an infectious disease specialist. But I have to say that to hear it from my own physician really drove it home that I am doing the right thing — which is the best I can — to protect me and my husband.

While we were talking I told him there was a petition and a recent group formed to make masks wearing voluntary in our school system and to reduce quarantines from exposure. “Oh I do not agree with that,” he said.

So there you have it, take it for what it’s worth and I realize that many, maybe most of you, will think it’s not worth much at all.

And that’s OK, I wanted to share it and if it helps just one person stay safer this winter, then I consider the time it took me to write this well worth it.

God bless you all. I pray that we will all be wise and use the brain the Lord gave us to do our part not just for ourselves, but for others.

Love and care for one another, that’s what it is all about, after all.


Margie Richards is a reporter for The Madison County Journal. She can be reached at

(1) comment

Virginia Moss

Love and care is evidently not part of the identity of about half our population, most of whom claim to be devoted to Jesus Christ .... you know, God and country. They resent being told what to do by anyone except their chosen worldly deities. Most still don't understand that the mask wearing is to protect others from the wearer, not to protect themselves. Those who choose to believe the whole thing is not real, of course, have no reason to protect themselves and don't care to be concerned about others.

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