COVID-19 ended my mom's journey last week

Opinion: Columns

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Patrick Brent

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Despite being careful and taking every precaution, my beautiful, amazing mother, Jan Daley Brent, died from COVID complications this past, Tuesday, Nov. 24, two days before Thanksgiving. 

Her passing was violent and horrific, and she spent the last weeks of her life suffocating from COVID-induced pneumonia while in agonizing pain, writhing, screaming, and sobbing whenever she wasn't heavily sedated. She described the pain as feeling like her body was "on fire" or being stabbed with hot needles, and morphine and a host of other serious painkillers did almost nothing to lessen her agony when awake. 

In addition to the physical symptoms, the combination of heavy narcotics and COVID-related neurological issues also caused almost constant terrifying delusions and hallucinations whenever she was awake toward the end, and she was awake between 7-10 hours a day the last week of her life. I just can't begin to articulate how hellish and horrifying the sum total of her experience must have been for her, and the complete and utter despair I feel at being so powerless to help or even touch her as she went through it  is a crushing weight that's hard to bear. 

The last semi-lucid conversation I was able to have with my beautiful mom was more than a week before she died, and, being the selfless, loving mother to the end, her last words to me, gasped out over the telephone through ragged, panting, suffocating breaths and sobs and cries of terror and pain, will haunt me forever.

"Patrick ... this is terrible ... [sobs and cries of pain] ... Every ... breath ... I ...  take ... just ... [chainsaw-like panting] ... just takes ... [violent coughing] ... everything I have ... [more moans, drops phone and cries to the nurse "Oh god, please help me ..." I hear the nurse trying to comfort her as she hands her back the phone] ... Patrick ... I can't talk ... [panting] ... I need to tell you one thing before I go ... and you need to listen ... [this was the longest, strongest sentence of our conversation] ... You and Heather [my wife] ... [sounds of my mom desperately gulping oxygen] ... and Finn, Joss, and Ruby [my kids, her grandchildren] ... [more cries of pain and sobbing] ... need to take this seriously ... [gasp, labored panting] ... Do everything you can to protect yourselves ... [cries of pain] ... I don't want anyone I love to go through this ... I love you." She drops the phone again and the nurse picks up, and I, still shocked by how bad things have gotten, listen in stunned silence as she tells me my mom's condition has progressed rapidly, and they're just trying to "keep her comfortable" at this point. The strain in the nurse's voice was palpable through the phone.

My mom suffered for eight tortuous, horrifying days after that call, her condition seeming to worsen with each agonizing hour that ticked by. I can't imagine the unspeakable pain she must have been in at the end.

I couldn't see and comfort my wonderful mom in person as she was dying, and the astounding helplessness and resulting, seething rage is still very much with me as I type this. Her body was whisked away for cremation shortly after her death, and to think I'll never see her sweet, loving face again or hear her voice and laughter twists my guts into knots, and makes me want to rage blindly at the unfairness of it all. These feelings have nowhere to go, and sit in my belly like a cold, leaden stone.

She deserved a much better death than this.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my dad also had COVID at the same time, and despite being 75 years old with a host of pre-existing conditions that put him in the same "Very High" risk group alongside my mom, the virus didn't affect him at all ... not a single symptom. Married 47 years, my parents' love was deep and profound, and my dad is shattered not only by the loss of the love of his life, but even more so by the horrific way she was taken from us, and the unimaginable agony and suffering she had to endure before the virus finally killed her. It was like she was tortured to death.  

This thing is very real, and it's an absolute roll of the dice on how it will affect you. 

I can say, without reservation, that at this point, anyone who is refusing to wear a mask or take other simple precautions to protect those around them have made it abundantly clear they couldn't care less about anyone but themselves, and they are, unequivocally, putrid piles of steaming, soulless, self-flatulating, selfish garbage. They are not "decent" people in any way shape or form, and I'm actively cutting the few I know like this out of my life forever, and encourage all of you to do the same. Their lethally self-indulgent, supremely selfish and murderous behavior in the name of whatever warped, perverted concept of "personal freedoms" or "rights" they claim has already killed tens of thousands of our friends, family members, and neighbors who didn't have to die, and these wretched folks deserve whatever's coming to them, Karmic or otherwise. 

Please be safe.

My name is Patrick Brent, and I'd originally written my mother's story above as a comment in a COVID forum. People began asking to share it publicly, and after discussing it with my dad and several of my mom's closest friends, we feel that, in honor of her spirit of selflessness and helping others, and in the hopes her experience may save just one life, we wholeheartedly encourage you to share far and wide, and please feel free to share my mom's name, my name, and all those included. I want people to know my lovely mom and my family are real people who experienced this hell, and that she was someone who was deeply loved and adored by many. Her death needs to stand for something ... anything ... at this point, and potentially changing someone's view or getting someone to be more careful is more than a worthy cause, and my mom would agree.

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Reader Comments

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Tim Red  

Posted: December 5th, 2020 12:21 AM

I am so sorry for your loss! I have had the pleasure of meeting your mother on many occasions. My friend used to deliver the mail to the School in River Forest. I would visit him on his route once a week. She was such a kind woman! I seen you on the local news. I hope you continue spreading your story of your mother! RIP

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: December 4th, 2020 1:27 PM

Susan, you said what I was thinking. Share everywhere. Send it to the local and national news. I too, have pulled away from any person who doesn't wear a mask. They are potential killers.

Susan Montgomery from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2020 2:31 PM

Patrick, I am so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful mother and for the terrible suffering she endured. Your friends are right. You need to keep sharing this with others. I'd share it with our government leaders - especially those who are not taking this seriously. Take good care and I wish your family much peace going forward. Your mother's legacy is so much more than her final days.

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