Pastor Regrets In-Person Christmas With Family After They All Tested Covid19 Positive And A Friend That Stopped By For A To Go Plate
Eleven of pastor John C. Elmore Jr.’s family members got together for Christmas 2020.
Many soon thereafter tested positive for COVID-19, including a non-family member.
Elmore’s wife ended up on mechanical ventilation for 13 days and hospitalized in early 2021, fighting COVID-19.
Elmore, 55, parish pastor for St. Mark United Methodist Church in Greenwood, said he knows not all are on board with mask-wearing for slowing spread of the novel coronavirus, for various reasons, but he’s an advocate of wearing them and of social-distancing measures, such as remote, virtual meetings and FaceTime calls instead of meeting in-person.
“Wearing a mask right now is not just for yourself, but for respect and care for humanity,” Elmore said. “Our son, who is a medical doctor in residency was in from Washington State (for Christmas). We shared a meal and had a great time, but the next day, Kay, (Elmore’s wife of more than 20 years) showed symptoms.
By Christmas Eve, Kay tested positive.
“I showed my symptoms on the 24th and I tested positive the day after Christmas, Dec. 26,” Elmore said. “Once that started, we watched the rest of the family.”
Kay and John’s son, J.C., the one in medical residency, tested positive, as did others family members, including Kay’s mother, a sister of hers and a non-family member who just stopped in briefly for a to-go plate of food.
“All of us in the 50-and-older range experienced fairly significant symptoms,” Elmore said. “My brother and sister-in-law didn’t go back to work until the third week of January. I was having a fever (up until the middle of January).”
Just a week prior to the Christmas gathering, Elmore said about half of the group had been together for Kay’s mid-December birthday.
“Kay was really weak getting out of the house when we carried her to the hospital,” Elmore said. “I remember looking at my son, J.C. and asking myself did I wait too long to carry her to the hospital.”
Kay, 52, and John had celebrated a wedding anniversary Dec. 30 at home, but by Dec. 31, she was lethargic, her husband said.
“It was really hard to leave her at the hospital and I literally sat in the (hospital) parking lot for four hours because I knew I wasn’t going in (because of hospital COVID-19 visitor protocols and restrictions). I just sat there, until my fever spiked and I came home. Then, the roller coaster started.”
Elmore received a call from a nurse caring for his wife.
“Thirty minutes into the New Year, they called and told us they were putting her in ICU,” Elmore said. “The phone rang at 7:30 the next morning and she was on a vent. It was about 18 hours from the time we took her to the hospital.”
“She was moving air, but within 48 of that, she was on a vent,” Elmore said. “One of the doctors told Kay they were not sure early on and that she was lucky to be alive.”
Kay is now home from the hospital and things are getting back to normal, Elmore said.
Elmore said his church family has known people affected by COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic.
“The last two months, it’s been very noticeable in our church and in Greenwood,” Elmore said of the virus’s impact. “It’s very real. It’s very scary and it doesn’t seem to discriminate.”
Elmore said phone calls, cards, text messages, waving through the window and other means of checking on the family during this pandemic have been especially appreciated.
“To see God’s grace poured out that way has been a blessing,” Elmore said, noting St. Mark’s three campuses have worked to provide socially distanced and virtual worship opportunities during the pandemic.
“One of the sweetest moments during Kay’s hospitalization was when the staff was able to FaceTime with us using an iPad and she signed ‘I love you’ to me and the kids,” Elmore said. “We have to continue to process how do we minister to one another during these times. How do we provide a chance to encounter God? It might not be in person, but those are things we have to think about.”