Reflecting on the state of the world, to say we are a broken nation may be an understatement. All around us we see death and destruction as the world is ravaged by a severe health pandemic, systemic racism and injustice, and political warfare disguised as democracy. Not only are we at war with each other, but we are also at war with ourselves as we constantly participate in demeaning behavior, poison our bodies with toxic foods, and destroy our minds with compromising shows on tv. Young children suffer in silence as the stress of being quarantined is taken out on them by abusive parents or the wonder where their next meal will come from. All the while we are trapped in the same cycles of behavior, unable to answer the most basic question, why?
My story is the same as millions of people have faced in the past year, due to COVID-19. Unlike a lot of those people, I have found the meaning behind my tribulation, revelation in my mourning, and a drive and purpose fueled by God and loved ones I have lost along the way. Before my personal experience with COVID-19, I was stagnant, scared to fully embrace my purpose as negative thoughts told me I would fail. I was bound by my insecurities and trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and low self-esteem, trying to find meaning for why I’ve suffered so much in my life. Spiritually speaking it is only through death that we experience a rebirth, and this is my birthing story.
Some would say being delivered at 27 weeks and being 2lbs and 6oz that I was born to die. In fact, the doctors and nurses who delivered me told my mother just that. Stating that if by chance I did live I would be severely disabled and mentally delayed. Be the stubborn woman she was, my mother looked them straight in the eyes and said, “You don’t know the God I serve,” (Lisa Puebla, 1987). I spent the first several months of my life in the NICU at Inova Fairfax Hospital fighting to survive. Eventually, I was strong enough to go home but not before my parents, and grandparents were trained in infant CPR as the doctors prepared them for the possibility that I could stop breathing at any moment. Although I was connected to several medical leads and other equipment I was finally home. Of course, it was a learning curve for everyone, but they continued to care for me the best way they knew how.
As I grew my parents started to notice the manifestation of several health issues such as asthma, poor eyesight, severe allergies, etc. When I started to walk doctors noticed that my legs being severely bowed. By the time I was two years old I was diagnosed with a rare condition, especially in females at the time, called Blount’s Disease. The disease caused a deformity in my legs causing the bowing to be so severe corrective surgery was needed. I had my first “double” surgery on both my legs at the age of two, and that continued every one to two years until I was sixteen years old.
Having that many operations took its toll on my family and me, even triggering additional health problems due to lack of mobility. I would spend weeks at a time in the hospital and then several months in rehabilitative therapy learning how to walk after every surgery. At the age of ten during one of my “double” surgeries, I had complications, ending up in a coma for three days. I can only imagine what my family was going through at the time, especially my mom. Then after my last corrective surgery at sixteen, I ended up getting several severe infections over the span of 4 years, due to my body rejecting the surgical metals. At one point I almost lost my leg.
Through it all my mother raised me in the church, pouring life into me every chance she got. She taught me about the love of God, was there when I decided to get baptized, and shouted in praise with me as I received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because my entire family was raised in the church, I did everything I could to be an active participant at a young age. I love to sing so I joined the choir and followed my grandmother’s example of missionary work, inciting the nickname “little missionary” whenever I would come to church. My grandmother even asked me to speak at an evening service and the title of my message was “Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed,” (Matthew 17:20, NKJV). I didn’t fully understand it then, but my Grandmother and mother were nurturing something in me, as they knew I was meant for greater things.
God has shown favor throughout my life, putting me in the right places at the right time to minister to others, share my testimony. speak prophetic words, pray, and impact the lives of those around me. Even when witnessing others in distress God has always spoken to me about how to comfort and support them; all while going through my own storms. Going through so much tribulation became a norm in my life and I tried the best I could to try and maintain some sense of normalcy. All the while know I had a greater purpose. As life goes on we often get into routines finding comfort and satisfaction in our normal job, social life, and romantic relationships. Thus, becoming Numb to our true purpose and taking steps to fulfill it. That was the case for me until we were struck with the COVID pandemic.
Living in a family home with my husband, son, parents, and grandmother I felt comfortable with the routine of going to work and coming home. My mother stayed at home and had been a caregiver for my grandmother for several years as she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She also took care of my son, which was a job in itself. To say my mom is a superhero is an extreme understatement as she has been caring for sick loved ones most of her adult life, in the midst of having her own health conditions. I often tried to do things to make my mom feel special as I knew being a caregiver and homemaker was a thankless job. My mom is my best friend. Often walking in from work I was happy to see my family but extremely tired from the stress of the day. My legs would regularly ache from walking around the hospital and even at times causing me to drive home in tears. Still I thought I was happy but in my reflective moments, I yearned for something more.
As a healthcare worker, I knew my job exposed me to several medical risks. Even still I loved what I did and felt that working in the hospital I was once a patient in, was a full-circle moment. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 Pandemic that things changed…
When COVID first hit everyone was in panic including me. So many people with pre-existing conditions were dying, I thought catching COVID would be a death sentence for me. Initially, at work, the Administrative staff were not protected and told that we would be reprimanded for wearing masks, while in front of patients. There was a clause for people who had breathing conditions that were “acting up” but as a person in leadership, I felt it wouldn’t be fair for me to wear a mask when my team couldn't. Because things with the virus were so new, medical professionals were still not sure of how it really spread. During that time, every moment I spent away from that safety of my home was spent in fear. After it was announced that provisions would be made for all exempt employees to work from home, I immediately asked leadership if I could work remotely a few days a week. I was told it wouldn't be possible and my fear mounted some more. It wasn’t until my husband came home with a “cold” that my anxiety went into overdrive. I was so scared for him, but he insisted it was "just a cold". Two days later my husband didn’t come home, and I received a text that he was quarantining himself from the family for fear he had COVID. The moments after reading that text were a haze. My husband was so fearful himself, that he didn’t even tell me where he was, thinking I would come and try to visit him. Every day that he suffered from COVID I longed to be by his side, or at least drop off a home-cooked meal to wherever he was, but his fear prevented him from telling me as he suffered alone for ten days with COVID symptoms. When he was well enough to come back home and saw that we were seemingly healthy he thought all was well, but within two days of his return, I started to feel poorly.
It started out as a small cold until three days later I could barely breathe or move. And sure enough, I tested positive for COVID. I immediately tried to quarantine in a room inside my home but having a toddler made it nearly impossible. Plus, he had already been exposed to the virus through my husband. Within days everyone in the house was sick with COVID and I was most worried about my mother and grandmother due to their pre-existing conditions. My mother and I did our best to take care of my grandmother as we all fought the virus, but the severity of our symptoms caused mom and I both to be hospitalized within two days of each other. At one point I wasn’t sure if my mother would even make it home, but she kept declaring over our lives “We will live and not Die, In Jesus, Name”. As we tried to fight the virus from overcoming our bodies we didn’t realize how much my grandmother was suffering, as she was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t communicate how she was feeling…
Remembering how much pain I was in at the height of my symptoms I could only imagine what my grandmother suffered through…
As a result of having COVID which we all survived, my mother, grandmother, and I were left with extremely worsened health. My grandmother suffered the most as her Alzheimer’s accelerated at a remarkable rate along with other health conditions, causing her health to overcome her. Every day that passed a little more of my grandmother’s spark slipped away. Until eventually she couldn’t even speak. She spent twenty days in extreme agony with no ability to eat or drink, as she forgot how to swallow due to the severity of her Alzheimer’s. Helping my mom care for my grandmother during that time, I felt helpless, being unable to ease her pain. She was on in-home hospice care at the time, as a result of how severe her Alzheimer’s had become due to Covid. All we could do is keep her comfortable, as those were her wishes.
On October 27th, 2020 at midnight my grandmother’s suffering was finally over, as she transitioned on to be with the Lord. Although I am relieved that my grandmother is no longer in pain, especially watching what she went through, my heart aches every day from not being able to hug and kiss her. You see she was one of my best friends, believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself, seeing how special I was before I even knew who I was, and raising me to have an unshakable love of God that brought me through so much. She was the matriarch of our family, a woman of substance, and a pillar in the community. Now she’s the twinkle in God’s eye. Since my grandmother’s passing and funeral service on November 14th, 2020, at least three additional family members have died from COVID. It has been a heartbreaking experience but an eye-opening one as well.
As I continue to go through my recovery my grandmother is with me every step of the way. There have even been times in my sadness and despair she whispers to me to give it to God and let Him comfort me. Over the past several weeks while going through the holidays and distressing about my health and my future after graduate school… my grandmother’s spirit has continued to encourage me.
My grandmother has always been a bold woman of God speaking with authority and conviction through her outpouring of love for others. Thinking of my grandmother, the missionary, I have started to develop certainty in my purpose. Her spirit urges me to live boldly for God and share my story with others, and I am creating a platform to do just that.
The knowledge, wisdom, and faith she sewed into me at a such young age has manifested in my development today. No matter what obstacles arise I will continue to keep the word of God in my heart as I strive to do his will.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” (NKJV).