LIKE A LOVING MOTHER, GOD WATCHED OVER OUR FAMILY DURING COVID-19
by Frances Chow
How could a mother not be heavy-hearted when COVID-19 struck her family? I am that mother. During the pandemic, our oldest son was diagnosed with having COVID-19. Our other son worked as an infectious disease physician. And our youngest child, our daughter, was living alone in downtown New York City, the first epicenter of the pandemic!
After my husband, Leon Chow, retired from the pastorate, we moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, upon the suggestion of our son Clement and his wife Candace. This move proved to be mutually beneficial, and we found our retirement life very relaxing. Our son and daughter-in-law had attained success in their careers, for which we were very thankful, and we got to enjoy two energetic and lovely grandchildren, taking care of them when their school day was over.
Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, we learned on March 14, 2020, that Clement had contracted COVID-19. Clement is an assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Utah Medical School. In late February and early March, he traveled out of state to give lectures at several institutions. Soon afterwards, he became sick with a fever. Later, he found blood in his phlegm and experienced shortness of breath. On March 12, he measured his blood oxygen level at home and found it was down to 70%. Realizing his life was in danger, he paid a visit to the university’s hospital and was immediately transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where he spent six days and nights. The hospital supplied him with high-flow oxygen to aid his breathing. When his condition improved, he was discharged but continued to have a persistent cough accompanied by shortness of breath and a lack of energy. He remained on oxygen for more than two weeks. According to Clement, the most painful aspect was not the extreme physical discomfort he experienced, but the loneliness he endured while separated from his family and the fear of death he faced alone in quarantine.
After Clement was diagnosed with COVID-19, my husband and I had to be quarantined. Even when our quarantine was over, we could not enter Clement’s house to visit with him and his family. All we could do was to leave on their front porch the snacks I prepared for them and soups for Clement, made from traditional Chinese dietary therapy. We could only speak with Candace and our grandchildren through the glass front door. Yet there were times when we could not find words to comfort one another, so we just stood there lost in sadness. Though we were close physically, we felt we were worlds apart!
This house, where we had previously spent much pleasurable and memorable time together as an affectionate family, now seemed like a prison. COVID-19 was like a shackle, binding my beloved children and grandchildren inside their house. It was not until the family’s quarantine was over and Clement could breathe on his own, that we, three generations, could talk in their front yard while still maintaining a distance of six feet apart. Clement often warned us not to get close because his family carried the virus, and my husband and I, advanced in age, had weak immune systems. Still, it was so difficult to refrain ourselves from playing with our grandchildren and hugging our son, who seemed to have been brought back to life from a near-death experience.
Enduring Isolation, Helplessness, and Anguish
After Clement tested positive for COVID-19, we began to question whether our daughter-in-law, our grandchildren, and even we ourselves had contracted the virus and become carriers. Prior to Clement’s hospitalization, we had been carrying out our regular routines—working, going to school, and serving in our church. However, the staff from Utah’s Department of Health refused to administer the COVID-19 test to us, and they also did not recommend that we share with those whom we had been in contact with that we might have been exposed to the virus. Because of that, we did not even dare to ask other Christians to pray for us. We were enveloped by a profound sense of guilt and isolation.
During that time, we had additional worries. We experienced much anguish and feelings of helplessness as we thought of our second son, Jeremy, and his family who lived in Texas, as well as our daughter, Melanie, who lived alone in New York City. Jeremy is a physician in infectious diseases and works as an assistant professor at Southwestern Texas University Medical School. With COVID-19 raging everywhere, I was deeply worried that Jeremy—being young and with expertise in this field—would be recruited to work on the frontline. Since most of the hospitals were lacking protective equipment and sanitizing products, doctors could easily contract coronavirus. And Jeremy could bring the virus home and infect his about-to-give birth wife and their threeyear-old son.
Fortunately, Melanie was able to work from home. If she stuck to all the preventive measures, even living in New York City, the chance of her being infected would be greatly minimized. Even so, as her mother, I still felt anxious for her—fearing that she might not be able to buy food, sanitizing products, and face masks. I often wondered how she managed to face the loneliness of complete isolation by herself.
Help in the Storm
If God’s Word has not been hidden in my heart, I believe I would have suffered a mental breakdown during this time. Because of this pandemic, I came to face squarely my inability to keep my children safe. No matter how deep my maternal love and sorrow were—and how many sacrifices I was willing to suffer—my human expressions and efforts would be insignificant. I shed many tears of concern for my three children, but deep in my heart, I knew that God is our only “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
God’s Word gave me comfort and hope and wiped away my tears. It reminded me that when I am downcast, I should praise the Lord and put my hope in Him—because He is my salvation (Psalm 42:5). Moreover, I should “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). I can firmly believe that God—with His infinite wisdom and power—is in control, and His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are confronted by difficult circumstances, He will provide us with a way out so that we can endure them (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I give thanks to God because His Word reminds me that—though we will encounter many troubles in this world—we can experience peace when we are in Him. We can be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). When COVID-19 is rampant, plaguing the world, as well as my family, my heart does not have to be troubled. I do not have to be afraid because Jesus has promised to give me peace (John 14:27). He is my God, and He is with me (Isaiah 41:10).
God promises to cover us with His feathers and deliver us from pestilences/epidemics (Psalm 91:3,4). I believe this is what happened to Clement. Though he had to use high-flow oxygen when he was in the ICU, and doctors considered intubation and using a mechanical ventilator, they never had to use the latter options on him. His oxygen level was able to rise steadily while using less invasive therapy. Some patients who are intubated and put on ventilators go into a deep coma and sometimes encounter death. Truly, Clement went through the valley of death unscathed, for the Lord was with him (Psalm 23:4a).
As we look back, we realize God’s timing is the best, and His grace is always sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Being the first COVID-19 patient in Salt Lake City admitted into the ICU, Clement had many advantages. At that time, there was ample protective gear and equipment for medical personnel, and no lack of medications and other resources for patients. Also important was that the medical staff had not yet been overworked, so they had adequate time and energy to take care of Clement, their first ICU patient with COVID-19.
This experience opened our eyes to the frailty of life. We can identify with the verse that says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:30). Clement was a strong 38-year-old geneticist specializing in rare childhood diseases, yet he was not spared the attack of COVID-19. Insignificant human beings should not boast of youthfulness, health, or education. We must humble ourselves and “hope in the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31a) because He is “the Creator of the ends of the earth… and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28). We pray that God will enable Clement to “soar on wings like eagles” and he “will run and not grow weary and will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31b).
It surely was God’s providential care that Clement’s wife and two children, as well as my husband and I—all who had been in constant contact with Clement—did not contract the virus. We praise the Lord, too, that He providentially spared our younger son, Jeremy, from being dispatched to the frontline treating COVID-19 patients. It seemed to be a precautionary measure taken by the hospital, because if Jeremy contracted the coronavirus, he could endanger the life of his wife, the baby in her womb, and their three-year-old son. We thank God that in all things, He works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28a).
During this time, many church members demonstrated their love for our family through comforting words and prayers. Some even did grocery shopping for us. We are grateful that a loving Christian sister—whom we had never met—generously donated non-medical masks to Melanie and medical masks to Jeremy. So they both had a good supply of protective masks to use. We appreciated the sweet love poured onto us by the family of God.
And we are thankful that we have advanced technology! Via the internet, our family could see, talk, and pray for one another. Even Micah, our four-year-old grandson, knew he could pray to God and ask God to protect his dad from contracting COVID-19 again.
Like a Mother, Our Great Shepherd Loves Us
During this pandemic, God graciously reminded me through His Word that He is not only our loving Heavenly Father but also like a loving mother. As I meditate upon those Bible verses that describe God as a loving mother, many sweet memories came to my mind.
I still remember how serene my children were resting against my breast enjoying the pleasure of being nursed by me. At that moment, my children knew they were being lovingly cared for. Our hearts were joined in perfect harmony, and we experienced no separation from each other. The prophet Isaiah likened God’s care for us to a mother who tenderly feeds and cares for her children. Like a mother, He has compassion for us, and He will never forget us (Isaiah 49:15). God is also like a good shepherd who not only gathers his lambs—His children—in His arms, He carries them in His bosom. And He gently leads us who are tending the young (Isaiah 40:11).
Thank God that His tender loving care for us continues throughout our life! He said: “… I have upheld (you) since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:3b–4).
We are truly blessed! What do we have to be afraid of when God is like a loving mother and a good shepherd caring for us, protecting us throughout our lives? When my children were young, I often sang the hymn, “God Will Take Care of You,” with them. The chorus is not only melodic but easy to be understood and remembered by very young children. When COVID-19 attacked my family, the melody and the lyrics of this hymn: “God will take care of you, through every day, o’ver all the way; He will take care of you, God will take care of you” lingered in my head, assuring me of God’s care. This brought me great consolation!
My little lambs have grown up now, and I pray that their spiritual life has matured through this storm. I pray they will not forget that our Heavenly Father is watching over them “through every day, o’ver all the way.” God has reminded me that the next time I am with my grandchildren, I need to teach them to sing the chorus, “God Will Take Care of You.” The heart of young children is like good soil. The refreshing rain and bright sunshine of God’s Word will nourish their spiritual life and cause it to grow. As a mother and grandmother, I can help weed, fertilize, and irrigate that life to withstand the raging storms of life, so that tiny seeds of faith will mature into a vibrant flourishing tree, towering into the sky.
As of the date of this publication, the world has experienced 37.1 million COVID-19 cases and 1.01 million deaths. We at Challenger express our deep condolences and sincere sympathy to all who have been impacted by this terrible plague. May our Heavenly Father’s love and mercies be felt by all.
Frances Chow is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a minister’s wife, and a retired school psychologist and supervisor. Her story was translated by Philip Yu, an elderly believer who attends Rutgers Community Christian Church in New Jersey.