A big part of me died with her.
Millions of families around the world are suffering from the same, sudden loss. I am part of this tribe, a new global community of survivors trying to find order in chaos, grinding through the emptiness this virus has created. With every sunrise, we count the minutes ticking off through the day, wondering if we can hold it together through Zoom meetings at work and well-intended queries about how we are doing.
Caught in darkness, I have turned to pie to light my journey. I'm not eating pie. At least no more than usual. I use pie the way a student of meditation uses a mantra. To practice mindfulness. To soften sharp edges of the day. I carve pie slices from clay. I paint images of pies in acrylic. I photograph pie. I work on song lyrics about pie. I imagine writing murder mysteries where the plot turns on pie. I question the particulars of pie, wondering about the forces that shaped pie over the past thousand years. If pie could talk!
Pie makes people smile. Betsy's favorite was German chocolate pie from the local K&W Cafeteria. She'd frequently request a slice, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I would bring home a whole pie. Who buys one slice of pie? Coconut pie and chocolate icebox pie were back-ups.
Betsy found joy in food. In her last year, as pain increased from chronic diseases, she requested cake and ice cream each day. When store-bought cake would not do, we retrieved a chocolate pound cake from the local bakery. On special occasions, she'd order a hummingbird cake or Lady Baltimore cake.
Betsy loved biscuits, too. With illness limiting our travel options, we aspired to annual holiday retreats to Chapel Hill, NC --- a two-hour car ride away. Her favorite breakfast there was a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and cinnamon roll from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. She would nibble at both, not finishing either.
Early on with Betsy, I learned not to reserve joy for special occasions. Turns out deprivation does not lead to salvation. It just leads to a hankering for pie.
Betsy and I tested positive for the coronavirus at the same time in August. Our best guess is she contracted it at a local medical center -- while waiting in a line for a Covid-19 test a pulmonologist required for her annual exam. Between tests administered during hospitalizations and doctor visits, Betsy had cleared four or five Covid-19 tests before the positive result.
For me, the illness was nasty. Loss of taste, cognitive disorientation, low-grade fevers and a level of exhaustion I did not know was achievable.
For Betsy, who suffered from what we call "underlying conditions," the diagnosis arrived at the same time as a blood infection. For the first week, doctors described her coronavirus case as mild. By day eight, they described it as deadly. The virus grabbed her lungs and never let go.