COVID-19 thinks it took another victim tonight, Dec. 14, 2020. There will be a death listed in the Bell County, Texas, newspaper, with the State of Texas, and other databases.
For my family and me, that death is not just another number around the now 300,000 in the United States. It was my mom, LaVerne Klemme.
But here is the twist: COVID did not get to take her as it has thousands — alone with no contact with family. And part of the reason that happened was that my wife, Kelly, and I had contracted COVID-19 in late October and recovered. Who knew that would ultimately be a blessing?
When I was contacted at 4:30 p.m. Saturday to ask if we granted permission not to ventilate Mom in the COVID unit of Baylor Scott and White Hospital in Temple, we authorized comfort care for her instead. With that, family was allowed to enter her room with appropriate PPE. Having had the virus just a month before, I was considered at low risk for getting the virus again by entering the unit.
“I had not seen her for 10 months because of the restrictions on visitation in nursing homes.”
I walked into Mom’s room Saturday evening, and she lit up when she saw me. I had not seen her for 10 months because of the restrictions on visitation in nursing homes. I grinned and told her she really was going to some extreme measures to allow me to visit her. We laughed and then visited for the next two and a half hours. During that time, I was able to have her FaceTime with both of my sisters — who could not risk the exposure because of their age and the family health issues in their households. Mom’s children got to say goodbye.
When I kissed her goodnight Saturday evening, I was overwhelmed by the realization that she would probably not recognize me when I came back Sunday morning.
I spent Sunday with Mom, watching over her, comforting her when she became restless and agitated, and working with the amazing hospital staff to get her to a point to be at peace. It was not clear that she recognized me, and she was unable to communicate as she had the previous evening. However, at one point, she sat up straight in her hospital bed and looked straight at me.
She said, “You’re here.” I held her hand, responded to her, and told her that it was OK for her to go home to Dad now.
“I removed my face shield and mask briefly to lean over to kiss Mom on the cheek and whisper in her ear, ‘I’ll love you forever, Mom. It’s OK to let go, now.’”
When I left her Sunday night, she finally had been at rest for several hours. Right before I left, I removed my face shield and mask briefly to lean over to kiss Mom on the cheek and whisper in her ear, “I’ll love you forever, Mom. It’s OK to let go, now.” She briefly opened her eyes, and I stroked her hair until she was back at rest.
On Monday, I sat with her for several hours, but she never woke. She was extremely peaceful the entire day. I met my sister, Linda, downstairs, to give her an update, and I left to come back to Dallas so I could refresh and see Kelly and our son Kyle. After going to bed, the doctor’s call woke me at 11:45 p.m. to tell me Mom was gone. He told me she was at peace as she passed, exactly as I had left her.
I am heartbroken but also relieved she is finally at peace and is no longer isolated.
My sisters — Lois, Linda — and I were incredibly blessed that God chose Al and LaVerne Klemme to be our parents. They were told near their wedding day that Mom’s medical condition was such that they never would have children. They ended up having three, along with three loving grandchildren. Our parents treated our spouses as if they were their own.
My parents’ story is truly an incredible one, and they gave us a wonderful foundation of love in which to live our lives. I’m truly happy knowing that Mom and Dad are back together, and that someday down the line, we will all be reunited.
As followers of Christ, our family knows death did not have the last word tonight. Neither did COVID-19.
Chris Klemme is an attorney and bank trust officer in Dallas, where he and his wife are members of Wilshire Baptist Church. He is a graduate of Baylor School of Law.