In the last days of March, my son Jonathan tested positive for COVID-19 four days after he returned from London where he was doing postgraduate studies, and one day into the 14-day Stay Home Notice period my husband and I were serving because of our overseas trip.
Our family had expected that Jonathan, 29, would be tested positive considering the coronavirus situation in the UK then, and we were relieved that he fell ill at home rather than elsewhere. And although he had very high fever and looked terrible as he was whisked away in the ambulance, he had no breathlessness and only a mild cough. And he was young. Still, not being able to hug my first-born goodbye tugged at my mother’s heart strings – so very near and yet so far.
I was more anxious for the five of us left at home. Even though Jon had self-isolated in his room as a precaution and his luggage and laundry had been thoroughly disinfected, we were still his close contacts. So of course, I was praying the rosary for Our Lady’s intercession every day.
Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exultate, 153, taught: “Prayer, because it is nourished by the gift of God present and at work in our lives, must always be marked by remembrance.” He said we must always “think back” on the smallest circumstances of our daily lives to increase our awareness that the Lord is ever mindful of us and does not forget us. So not only did I try to remember and “pray without ceasing,” I also tried to “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
Now that Jon has recovered and back home in time for Mother’s Day, and with the rest of our family well, it is not difficult to think back, rejoice and give thanks to Christ for his presence in the circumstances of our personal COVID-19 experience:
- Christ the Servant: in the very amiable MOH officers who came to serve us our quarantine orders, deliver our thermometers and temperature recording charts, and hygiene kits to disinfect Jon’s room, and those who video-called three times a day to check the temperatures and locations of each of us at home. Considering they had hundreds of people to call, and the repetitive nature of their task, it was amazing how they could crack a joke and empathise with us, and show the utmost courtesy every time;
- Christ the Healer: in the doctors and nurses in hospital and recovery staff who put themselves on the frontline to do tests and minister to Jon and his fellow patients;
- Christ the Good Samaritan: in the relatives and friends who regularly checked in on us, helped us with our grocery-shopping (especially in the early days of panic-buying, long queues and elusive online delivery slots), brought us (and Jon) home-cooked meals and special treats to ease our time in quarantine, and whose intercessions sustained and uplifted us throughout;
- Christ the Good Shepherd: in Archbishop William Goh and the other presiders of the online masses we looked forward to every day, and the creators of so many other faith formation and prayer resources on the new media that nourished us spiritually;
- Christ in creation: in the beauty of the clouds and skies, the sound of the rain and the birdsong, and the greenery of our garden city that we suddenly now had more time to contemplate; and above all,
- Christ in his domestic Church: although we don’t usually pray together as a family, we all prayed in our own way for Jon to come home. We cooked for each other, played games together and basically had great fun as a family, especially when we looked at old photos and reminisced about the good (and sometimes bad) old days before the kids went off to university in different countries.
By mid-April, our son had been transferred to recuperate at a community recovery facility. We had expected him to be home by Easter, but as Holy Week came and went, circuit breaker measures further extended, and there was still no indication of when Jon could come home, we grew increasingly concerned.
A patient needs to test negative for COVID-19 two days in a row before he can be discharged, and having his hopes dashed with false negatives twice, we suspected that his resilience was being worn down. After all, he had been in isolation for nearly a month already, and even my daily trips to the facility (after our quarantine was over) to drop off his favourite comfort foods for lunch no longer seemed to cheer him up.
On 1 May, I consecrated my first-born to St Joseph, and told Jon to pray the Liberation Rosary, a prayer I learnt in the Charismatic Renewal. The prayer uses rosary beads to call on the name of Christ the Liberator (John 8:36) to deliver us from whatever we need to be saved, healed or set free from – I know from personal experience that it is amazingly effective. Jon reluctantly agreed to pray it; desperate times called for desperate measures.
Three days and two consecutive negative swabs later, Jon got his discharge letter and he was on his way home. (Later he would confess that he had been very sceptical of the Liberation Rosary, and was pleasantly surprised it actually “worked”!) But I know God allowed events to unfold this way for a good reason – after all, he had said to his people in exile in Babylon, “I know what plans I have in mind for you, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) If the Israelites had to wander in the desert 40 years before they reached the Promised Land, perhaps Jon had to stay in his COVID-19 wasteland for 40 days before he could come home. Thank God, he returned after 37 days!
That was just a few days’ ago. And today, we celebrate a COVID-19-free Mother’s Day – it’s the first in seven years that the family is together. I rejoice and give thanks to the Holy Family for their unceasing prayer, love and mercy, and their gift to me of the best Mother’s Day ever. Truly, a day to remember!