Well, this was all very surreal.
After Easter morning I was just exhausted. We had put on the service with a “skeleton crew” worship team for our live radio broadcast on WQTY 93.3 FM. I always feel extra keyed-up for Easter, and I still felt that way even though the stay-at-home order had left us without a congregation. In order to limit the number of people who needed to come in to put on the service, I played all the music on my guitar. I confess I felt some extra pressure because of that. Normally if I miss a chord or a beat, I know Charlene will carry the music with the piano. Without her there I had to make sure I played things right!
And I always feel a keen anticipation about the Easter sermon. I love to preach about the resurrection of Christ and why there are solid reasons to believe that it actually happened. Easter is my favorite Sunday of the year, and while I was disappointed that we didn’t get to have a Sunrise Service or an Easter breakfast, I still anticipated preaching the resurrection sermon.
It’s not unusual for me to feel tired after a morning service, especially after Easter morning. As soon as the radio broadcast concluded, I stepped down off the platform and laid down on one of the front pews. A couple of people laughed, but I really didn’t do it for a joke. I only lay there a few moments because I felt silly. I thought, “Man, I’m getting old! This didn’t used to wear me out this much!”
Rae Anne and I had a low-key, laid-back day, and we both rested some that afternoon. But that night she looked at me and asked, “Are you all right? You don’t look so good.” I told her, “I’m exhausted, achy, and I feel cold. But I think it’s just the physical let-down after Easter…and maybe some allergies kicking in.”
I slept well that night and felt better in the morning. We actually went out to the store to get a few things we needed on Monday. That night I felt achy and tired again, but not nearly as much as the day before.
Tuesday of that week I went in to work. Cindy, Nadine and I don’t work closely together on normal weeks, and we were taking extra precautions during this time to stay at least six feet apart. I was still feeling kind of run-down, so I did some light administrative tasks and worked on an electronic problem with my guitar equipment on the platform. These were things that needed to be done, but didn’t take a lot of brain power. Frankly, I was feeling kind of fuzzy-headed. And as the day wore on I felt more and more tired, so I went home early, about 5:30 pm.
The next morning I didn’t feel so great. I honestly thought it was seasonal allergy stuff. The pollen level was moderately high, and I go through this every year to some degree. I’m especially susceptible to sinus infections, etc., when I’m run-down and haven’t been getting enough sleep. So I texted the deacons and told them I wasn’t feeling well, that I was sure it was allergies, but that I wasn’t going in to church that day because I didn’t want to alarm or expose Cindy and Nadine. In response Pat Woodall told me I’d better get myself tested for the coronavirus. And I thought, “Oh, I don’t have the coronavirus! I do this every year. It’s just allergies.” But Pat kept insisting, so I told Rae Anne I was going to call my doctor in the morning, and let him decide.
I read online that if you were feeling sick, you shouldn’t go to the doctor’s office or emergency room, but rather call them and ask for instructions. So the Thursday morning after Easter I called my doctor’s office and spoke with a nurse. I described my symptoms and totally expected her to say, “You don’t have the coronavirus. It sounds like your normal allergies.” But she didn’t say that. She said, “I think you’d better get tested for the virus.”
So what did I do after getting this sound medical advice? I argued with her. I said, “Surely this is just me feeling run-down after Easter, and my seasonal allergies kicking in.” She put me on hold and went and talked to my doctor. She came back in a minute and said, “Dr. Purohit wants you to have the coronavirus test. There’s an outside tent at the Sullivan hospital. You can drive over there to get tested, and we’ll tell them you’re coming.” I hung up the phone and told my wife with some disbelief, “He wants me to be tested for coronavirus!” So I shrugged and went and got my coat and face mask.
I was kind of looking forward to driving to Sullivan. With the stay-at-home orders in place, I’d only been between home and church for days on end, with the occasional foray to Walmart or the drugstore. It was kind of nice to drive a bit.
The testing site was a little, um, confusing. I pulled up to the tent outside, and after a few minutes a masked nurse came out and took my name and phone number. Then she directed me to park my truck and wait for a phone call. After a few minutes she came back out and said they couldn’t find me in their system. I told her I’d never been in the Sullivan hospital as a patient. She took some more information and went back inside. After several more minutes I got a call on my cellphone telling me I could come in now. I put my mask on and went inside.
They directed me to the admitting desk, where a nice lady began asking me more questions and told me I would have to see a doctor first. I said, “Wait a minute: my doctor sent me over here. You’re telling me I have to see another doctor before I can get the test?” At that moment another masked nurse across the room shouted, “Oh, no, we have his order right here! He doesn’t have to see a doctor.” She beckoned me over to her, asked me even more questions, then said, “You can go back outside now and take a seat in the pink chair, out in the tent.” So I went back outside, and sat by myself in the chilly air in the empty tent. I was glad I wore my coat.
After a couple of minutes the same nurse came out with a test kit, and swabbed my nasal passages. I don’t think she reached my brain, but she came close. It didn’t take long, and she said, “You’re all done!” She told me I was to act as though I had already tested positive for the coronavirus and quarantine until I got my test results back. I assumed it would be 5 to 7 days before I got the results.
I was wrong. The next evening, Friday night, I got a call from a Terre Haute number I didn’t recognize. I figured it was a sales call and didn’t answer it. Then I thought better of it in light of my coronavirus test, and called the number back. To my surprise, Dr. Purohit answered. (Yes, I have his cell phone number now. No, you can’t have it.) He was very concerned and told me I had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, and that my wife and I were to be under a two-week quarantine starting from Easter Sunday. I couldn’t believe it.
I asked him if I needed to take any medicine. He told me, “No, you’re in good health otherwise, and you’re still a young man.” (I love Dr. Purohit.) I said, “Nobody has called me a young man for a while!” He said, “No, you are! Just stay at home and rest and drink plenty of fluids.” He then instructed me that if my symptoms got worse, to not hesitate to call for an ambulance and tell them I’d tested positive for the coronavirus.
My head was kind of reeling from this news, and I had scarcely hung up from talking to the doctor when my phone rang again. It was a nice lady named Stacy from the Greene County Health Department. Boy, you get really popular when you’re diagnosed with coronavirus! She spent about half an hour on the phone with me, reiterating some of the instructions my doctor had given me, and patiently answering all of my questions. She concluded by making sure I had her cellphone number, and told me to call if I had any questions at all. I was very impressed with both her and my doctor, and the concern they both expressed for me and my wife.
Then began a series of days that all were more or less the same. I’d wake up in the morning and think, “Oh, I feel great! I think I’m better now.” Then after about 30 minutes I’d think, “Wow, I’m tired. I think I need to sit down.” About mid-morning I’d need to take a nap.
When I’m healthy, it’s all I can do to sleep six hours or so a night. It frustrates my wife no end. Even on vacation I only sleep about six hours or so. And I’m something of a night-owl. That frustrates my wife, too.
But not during this time. I’d sleep nine and a half hours at night, take a two- or three-hour nap in the morning, and then take another one in the afternoon. And by 8:00 or 9:00 pm, I’d be so exhausted I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was in bed and asleep early every night.
And that’s how the days went. Wake up, eat breakfast, take a nap. Eat lunch, take another nap. Eat supper, doze through a television program, then go to bed and sleep another nine hours or so. After a while I really had trouble remembering what day it was. It felt like that movie Groundhog Day, where the guy just kept reliving the same day over and over again.
But during this time we received so many phone calls, postcards, letters, messages, text messages, emails and responses on Facebook, all expressing concern and wanting to know how we were doing. Most of you wanted to know if Rae Anne was all right. I understood the subtext: “You’d better not make her sick!” But thankfully, she never did manifest any symptoms.
I made the mistake of posting a picture of an empty jar that had been filled with hot fudge that my daughter had made for me. It was my mother’s recipe, and she’d given it to me for my birthday back in February. Apparently someone thought it was a plea for help. After a few days I received a package containing two jars of hot fudge sauce, followed by another package containing 4 bottles of dark chocolate syrup. These were sent anonymously. Then Kim Cramer delivered a chocolate cake with white icing, baked by her mother, Melody Ledgerwood. And so began my attempt to cure the Covid-19 virus with intense chocolate therapy. I think it might have worked!
Honestly, there were a few days where I didn’t feel very good. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. But I followed the news, and I was very aware of the fact that I had a relatively mild case. It was again surreal to see on the news the statistics about how many in the United States had the coronavirus, and to know that I was one of them. I like to keep up on the national and world news, but I don’t like being part of the story.
Knowing that people were dying from this was sobering. Despite what my doctor said, I knew that being sixty-four put me in the senior category. I was grateful to my doctor for urging me to swim these last three years. I believe that may have contributed to my lungs being stronger, and perhaps better able to withstand the virus. And while I did develop some chest congestion, I never developed the deep, hacking cough that afflicted many, and I never had any trouble breathing. For all of this I am truly, deeply grateful to God.
And I am grateful for all of the prayers and concern so many of you have expressed to Rae Anne and I. I was frequently moved to tears by your comments. And you should have seen the card sent to me by the guys at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. It was signed by 11 of them, and what they wrote choked me up pretty good.
I kept thinking as I went through this, “Lord, if You are willing and I come out on the other side of this, I want to spend whatever time I have left that You give me focusing on just a few important, simple, Biblical things.” Things like:
- The simplicity of gathering together to worship God.
God does something in our souls on a deep level when believers gather together. It may not happen every time, but it happens often. And it’ll never happen at all if we don’t gather together. Lord, hasten the day!
- The importance of praising God together with other believers.
The world may not understand it, and may even make fun of it, but there is a soul-satisfying power in singing to God with other Christians. The world has its faint facsimile of this, when people sing popular songs together at a concert. But there is a whole other level involved when we are singing about or singing to our Creator God.
- The power of prayer.
Never in my life have I had so many people tell me they were praying for me, and it meant so much. Never underestimate the power of prayer, and never ignore an urge to pray. Never shrink from praying for someone, especially in their presence, where they can hear you. Your faltering, stammering prayer will communicate far more of the love of God to them than you can ever know.
- The priority of preaching the Word of God, of teaching the Scriptures and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus.
I’m not a CEO or a manager. I’m not a “leader” in the business-world sense. I’m not even a “life coach”. I don’t want to be. I’m a pastor. And I’m not a “speaker” or a “communicator”. I don’t want to be. I’m a preacher. I don’t want to be anything else. And I’m not a small-group facilitator, a pulpit-pounder, or a teller of emotionally manipulative stories. I’m a pastor-teacher. I want to “read from the book, from the law of God, clearly, and…[give] the sense, so that the people [understand] the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8 ESV) I want to “put the brethren in remembrance of these things” and so be “a good minister of Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 4:6 KJV). I want to “devote [myself] to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation” and to “teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13 ESV) And I want to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season”, and “fulfill [my] ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:2, 5 ESV)
As I neared the end of my quarantine I had several more conversations with the Health Department. They told me that when I had three consecutive days with no fever (without taking aspirin or Tylenol), and when my chest congestion got better, I could consider myself clear to end the quarantine. Thanks be to God, I did all of those things by the end of last week. And after having the surreal experience of sitting at home listening to myself preach two weeks in a row, I’m ready to get back to conducting a live service again this week. And I’m more than ready to have our congregation back.
We won’t be shaking hands for a while, and if it makes you feel better, I’ll wear a mask. But I can’t wait to see you in church again!
Soli Deo Gloria!