Not Just A Number
On the morning of April 28th, 2020, my 9-year-old son found my father face down on the floor in my daughter’s room. An oxygen tank laid by the side of his cool, graying body. I screamed and within moments, my husband rushed in, trying desperately to resuscitate him...but it was too late.
He was dead.
My father, Michael Horton, had been released from a Dallas hospital just four days prior. It was there he spent his 66th birthday alone, tied to a ventilator, fighting for his life. He fought mercilessly for weeks but finally succumbed to the devastating effects of Covid 19.
Today, his death is only one digit in the harrowing—and growing—statistics surrounding this disease: 1 of 15,832 Texans and 1 of 206,000 Americans gone too soon.
But to me, he was not just a number. He was my blood, my hero, and my best friend.
Mike, as he was known by friends and family, was a high school coach who mentored thousands of teens over his lifetime. He was a father of 3, grandfather of 4, and a lover of life. In the cruelest of ironies, he planned to teach and coach just one more year before he retired.
He only had one year left until he was free. Free, after a lifetime of providing for his family and teaching future generations. He loved this role, but he so looked forward to the independence retirement would provide. He planned to purchase an RV and tour the country, taking his grandchildren along for trips and adventures.
My dad spent time with my family whenever he could. He taught my son sports, just like he had taught me when I was little. He explained football plays, team drafts, and divulged the best tactics on how to beat opponents. He would drive over an hour almost every weekend to watch my son’s soccer or basketball game, only to turn around after the game, making the long drive back to Dallas.
He loved it when my daughter brushed his hair and gave him makeovers. He simply relished her affection. Her favorite memory of him was the days they spent together in our pool—grandpa patiently teaching her how to swim, throwing her up in the air as she gleefully came down with a big splash into his arms.
Last Christmas, he spent days with my husband and I, building a playground for our kids. He was so excited about it. We had to put the slide together at least 3 times, but we finally got it right. I will forever cherish this time with him.
My dad was selfless and kind, generous almost to a fault. He never held a grudge.
Most importantly he did not deserve to die the way he did. He was alone and we heard nothing. Was he scared? Did he know he was dying? Did he try to call out to me and couldn’t find his voice? These are questions I will never have the answers to and I blame the leadership of this country for that.
Our “leaders” failed my father. They continue to fail us all.
In our 24-hour news cycle reality, numbers are hurled at us constantly, changing minute by minute as the death toll rises. This barrage of information and “guidance” never stops, but is it helping? We are weighed down, stressed, and riddled with anxiety.
So what can we do?
We need to get involved.
I call on you to vote. Change starts at the ballot box. I urge you to not be so overwhelmed by the current political divide and current state of our country to give up your voting rights.
Our current leaders knew early about the devastating effects that the virus would have on this country...and the world. Yet, the narrative from Washington ran contradictory to reality. We could have mitigated this pandemic had our leadership taken a serious approach early on.
Scientific research shows that the death toll in the US may double by the end of 2020. We need our leaders to step up and into action, and all signs indicate that the current administration isn’t up to the task.
We need more PPE for front line workers. We need faster and more accessible testing, especially in our most vulnerable communities. We need an increase in funding for organizations responding to the threat. And we need to openly encourage mask-wearing as a proven strategy to stop the spread.
We don’t need division. We don’t need rhetoric. We don’t need more families torn apart.
We must come together and make our voices heard...now more than ever. And when you vote, please think of me, think of Mike, and think of the thousands of people who are grieving over the loved ones that are no longer with them. Make your voice heard loud and clear! Lives can be saved—the lives of those you love, and possibly your dads.
If you or a loved one has been personally affected by the Coronavirus and would like to share your story or talk with others who have, click here to visit Marked by Covid.