This will more than likely be brief. I suppose it’s more of a “stream of consciousness” type of writing. I’m honestly just trying to get through a bought of anxiety.
It’s the time of year in which the news starts reporting on flu shots again. It’s flu season, which for me also equates to the reminder of how my mother lost her life. She didn’t have the sniffles, or a fever, or a sore throat, or aches and chills. She died because the flu took her lungs, her heart, her liver, and her kidneys away. It could have easily taken her brain as well, based on the oxygen deprivation that results from one’s lungs being rendered utterly useless, or the 108 degree fever that results from one’s body trying to fight back. It lasted for 101 days, and it broke her body down one thing at a time. I watched her slip further away from me nearly every day.
Last year, I ranted and raved and posted and shared and wrote and pleaded with the world around me, in hopes that they would get flu shots. I had hoped that if I could turn my pain into the avoidance of that pain for someone else, it would make my own grief meaningful. I think the worst sting was when those I loved and cared for didn’t do it. It is an individual’s right not to be immunized, but for some of those same people to have sympathized and told me how awful and sorry they were, to then not even see the benefit of protecting themselves against the same illness broke my heart. It felt like the pain they claimed to hate to see me in was meaningless.
The truth is, I know that some people looked at my mom’s history of cancer and decided that it was the ultimate reason she lost her life to the flu. It played a role. But the eight other people who died of the same flu, in the same ICU, during the same time frame she was there, in that one hospital, in our one corner of the world, is a pretty massive number, relatively speaking. Nearly 58,000 people in this country died last year from the flu. My mom was only one of them. And many were perfectly healthy beforehand.
And even if you don’t get the flu, you can carry the virus, and spread it to someone it could kill. I wish I could make others see this. I wish they wouldn’t do the “it won’t happen to me” thing. I sure as hell did that, and I was wrong. It may not have happened to me, but it happened to someone I loved with all of my heart. I may have even carried it. I may have given it to her. I wasn’t immunized when she got sick. I don’t know.
But this year I won’t rant. I’m not going to attempt to change a single person’s mind. Every time I read some dismissal of what the flu does, I sink. I can’t do it this year. This is more than likely the last time I will say a thing about it, in any forum. If I couldn’t change hearts last year, I can’t change them this year. And I’m honestly fine with that.