A couple of months ago Ms. Della’s COVID-19 ravaged body was scooped up and taken to a north Louisiana hospital.
Everyone who knew Ms. Della was scared because at her advanced age she would be no match for the deadly menace. Even Ms. Della was aware that this thing was draining the life out of her.
About a week after the discovery, Ms. Della’s life went on pause. The bell appeared to be waiting to toll for her.
Ms. Della had a lot of things going against her. She was 85 years old, Black, had weight issues and other underlying health conditions. These were the deadly toys in COVID’s playhouse, where many like Ms. Della never left.
The statistics looked bad, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to the rate of death among five- to 17- year-olds, the rate of death for those 85 and older is 8,700 times higher.
As of March, 164,185 people 85 years old and older had died of complications of COVID-19, far more than any age group.
But there was an underlying issue that gave her a fighting chance and it had nothing to do with her health.
It was her tough life.
She once was a sharecropper, living on a plantation, working long, hard hours in the house of the owner, while she and her husband raised three daughters.
Ms. Della left there and worked her early mornings as a cook at a high school, even while getting her girls to school. The family later moved to a house. Years later as a single parent, and two of the girls off to college, she was unable to pay for the house and moved to a complex called “the projects.”
Ms. Della then found her way to a little house under a federal Section 235 housing program, helping low-income persons to get housing loans without any collateral.
During that time, Ms. Della cooked at a nursing home while tending to her youngest daughter who had cancer. That daughter died, leaving two young sons behind. Ms. Della took them in and raised them. She got them to church, attended their teacher conferences along with their baseball, football and basketball games.
The boys had to do their chores before they did anything. And, seemingly, the list of chores was endless.
She was still not done. One of the boys, now grown, became a single dad with two boys. Guess who, now retired, stepped in to help raise those boys, too, during a time when her health started to slide.
As family members struggled and cried in February and early March about Ms. Della’s COVID-19 fight, something happened.
Maybe it was the hard work in somebody else’s house. Maybe it was cooking for someone else’s children. Maybe it was struggling in a house that was not yours. Maybe it was the pain of watching a wonderful daughter die slowly from cancer. Maybe it was stretching dollars thin every month as she raised grandchildren and helped raise great-grandchildren that somehow those battles gave something back to her.
Ms. Della suddenly snapped out of COVID-19. A few days later, she was on the phone calling family members. She welcomed her daughters, relatives and friends on the front line with her.
COVID-19 is gone, but she is battling to bring her body back to some normalcy. In rehabilitation, her strength is measured in the number of steps she can take with assistance, the smiles she has and the phone calls she makes and accepts.
Ms. Della is occasionally cranky (What’s new?) and longs to be back in the 235 house that she now owns in the little town of Delhi.
Ms. Della Goldman is my mother-in-law. My wife and her sister, and the rest of the family and friends, won’t exhale until she is home sitting in her chair complaining and running things, like always.
Mother’s Day is coming next month. Hopefully Ms. Della, and others like her, will be home to celebrate.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.