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Margie Moran Floirendo:

How I coped with deaths, loneliness and pain due to COVID

By MARGIE MORAN FLOIRENDO, The Philippine STAR Published May 23, 2021 5:00 am

There is personal serendipity in my COVID-19 experience.

Like most senior citizens, I am more reflective of God in my life, and I am sure many people my age take this pandemic as a good compass for more profound personal spirituality. 

Mine was a mild case. But not knowing what hit me on March 13, 2020, I was scared. I had an early dinner with friends at a hotel in the Entertainment City and later attended a rehearsal at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). A few days before, I had arrived from a trip to Batanes with my college batchmates. I was about town every day and every night.

My infection case was a few days before lockdown, that initial stage when masks and social distancing were not yet the minimum health protocols. So, I can only try to guess where I got it.

I complained to my pulmonologist that I had very dry chest congestion. I was coughing, tired, and without my senses of taste and smell. The hospitals were already overwhelmed with COVID cases, and testing was available only to seriously and severely ill patients. Only if I had difficulty breathing should I rush to the emergency room.

Meanwhile, I took the prescribed medication and vitamins to boost my immunity. For 14 days, I isolated, recovering on the 10th day. My family checked on me daily, making sure I had food to eat even if I wanted to alternate between arroz caldo and noodle soups for every meal.

Although my infection was not severe, I did not know others who had COVID-19, and I did not tell anyone outside my family for fear of being ostracized.

Shortly after, I found out that my dear friends, fashion designer Ito Curata and his partner Bob Miller, were confined and intubated in a hospital. Within two weeks, they both passed away.

Ours has always been a closely-knit family. Several years ago, in separate events, I, as the eldest child, had to tell our mother that she had lost a son. The first to go was Miguel, and then Martin in most recent years. This time, we lost two more in a matter of three months.

That was my first shock encounter with death from COVID. I was dumbfounded. Now, up-close and personal with the pandemic’s wages, it was a painful jolt to realize that the end of life can indeed come like a thief in the night. I felt overwhelmingly sad and depressed at losing close friends so suddenly while in my isolation.

In one year, 23 friends departed, some to COVID and others due to other causes. But most painful was losing two brothers, Ignacio Moran and Francis Moran Jr., in a matter of three months.

Ignacio passed suddenly in his sleep from cardiopulmonary arrest in California. A week before that, he complained of difficulty in breathing. Hence, we don’t know if his death was due to COVID or cardiac arrest.

 The author with her brother Ignacio Moran, who passed in California on May 25, 2020

On a weekend in July 2020, Francis and his wife, Alexandra, met up with my family in Nasugbu, Batangas, where we stayed during the lockdown. I had just received the result of my Roche antibody test, which stated I was positive for antibodies. My daughter, Monica, got very nervous and suspected that I’d got COVID again.

Our doctor explained that I had antibodies possibly from my previous COVID infection. Little did we know then that after that fateful weekend, COVID struck our family and household, except for me. Tracing the source, Francis and Alexandra caught the virus from their driver, transmitted from other drivers in their condominium.

Losing siblings is indescribably painful. I felt like the memory of my entire childhood went with them. As I mourned their loss, and as one among those left behind, I cried as I accepted reality to be a cruel companion in isolation. I shed tears while longing in vain for that all-important solace of the moment: the tight embrace of those you love the most.

Margie with brother Francis Moran, who passed on August 13, 2020, and sister Lulette Monbiot during a wedding in the Cotswolds, England.

Ours has always been a closely-knit family. Several years ago, in separate events, I, as the eldest child, had to tell our mother that she had lost a son. The first to go was Miguel, and then Martin in most recent years. This time, we lost two more in a matter of three months.

My mother, Charo Roxas-Moran, is a remarkable woman. A mother of eight, she lost her husband, Francis Moran Sr., when he was 49 years old. After being a single parent to my siblings and me, she is now 93, with her nuclear family reduced to half its original size.

On outliving four of her children, she reminded us of God’s assurance that we will all have a reunion in His Heavenly Kingdom with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Being reminded of that truly made my faith stronger. On Francis’ last day, I lifted him to the Lord because only He has the power of life and death. We are all born to die.

 Author Margie Moran with daughter Gabbi Floirendo and mom, Charo

As for us, the living, suffering is a part of life. Suppose we are languishing in despair, depression, and discouragement. In that case, this pandemic can quickly turn into a ticket to death, no matter the vaccine and all other safety measures against its spread. Worry compromises mental health.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor E. Frankl, a neurologist and psychiatrist who survived four camps during the holocaust, shared that hope that having a goal for the future was what kept him and his fellow prisoners alive.

Helping others in need or despair gives meaning to our lives and will help us to move forward. We who have the resources to share with others must positively impact other people’s lives. In so doing, we pin our living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be joyful in our grief and trials. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

A person has two choices while in quarantine: wallow in loneliness or find something to accomplish. I chose to do something I had wanted to do for a long time: I classified my digital photos, 36,000 of them. I spent more time on my morning prayers and, like many, I read the Book of Revelations, believing that this might be the second coming of Jesus.

As I looked out the window, the clear skies and clean air held a promise that the earth was recuperating from the misdeeds of men. I was lighthearted for the rest of the day, and I try to be so every day.

And I wish that frame of heart and mind on everyone.