Second & Flume: A dark cloud

The maddening, heartbreaking phenomenon of vaccine hesitancy

Melissa Daugherty

Love isn’t enough. I learned that the hard way during childhood, when people I was close to deeply hurt and disappointed me. But never in adulthood has that lesson been so in my face as during this persistent pandemic.

It’s been agonizing to watch certain family members flout lockdowns and mask mandates—and now, on the brink of another massive surge of COVID-19, refuse to get vaccinated. It’s maddening on so many levels, and it’s been eating me up inside.

See, my family knows what’s at stake. Over the past year, the disease has claimed the lives of two relatives, both of whom spent the bulk of their last days in this earthly realm isolated from the people who love them.

This includes my sweet grandfather, who contracted the virus at his assisted-living facility and passed away six days before Christmas, just a few weeks before vaccines were given to elderly folks in his area. I didn’t get to say goodbye to him in the hospital or when he was released for hospice care in what turned out to be his last hours. It pains me to know that he spent the twilight of his life with strangers, rather than the people who knew how special he was.

I’m still working through the stages of grief, a process prolonged by the actions of the living. Indeed, all of my pain, guilt and anger is amplified by the fact that numerous people in my family have remained so willfully ignorant about the virus and what must be done to contain it.

In a sane world, the death of cherished loved ones would result in deep reflection and the determination to help ensure that others in society don’t get infected and die. At the very least, it should trigger an instinct for self-preservation.

For me, the most painful realization is that not even the health of vulnerable family members, including my medically fragile child, has been reason enough for certain relatives to get pricked in the arm. My son is too young to get the vaccine, and the job of keeping him safe weighs heavily on my mind. It stings to hear about how beloved he is from people who refuse to make a small sacrifice to protect him. As a mother who’d do anything to keep her son safe, it’s hard to fathom how they can reconcile such defiance with that love.

The decision has made me question much in this life. It’s opened my memory hole, the place I’ve stored some disturbing realities about my family. I hadn’t confronted them till now, when life and death is on the line. It’s made me question who I am. Worse yet, I’ve come to question love itself.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I literally begged one particular relative to get the vaccine. Sadly, it did nothing. I’m thankful for the people close to me who have been vaccinated. Still, the outliers keep a dark cloud hanging over our family.

I’d never expected to be so utterly let down in my adult life, and considering the body count in our nation—nearly 630,000 at press time—I’m certain this kind of trauma is relatable for so many others. The pandemic has been an existential hellscape, and it’s depressing to think that it’s going to be here for quite some time.

Again, I’ve come back to one conclusion: Love isn’t enough. It’s just not.

As our editorial this month conveys, Butte County’s vaccination rate is lagging. Big time. Meanwhile, the Delta variant appears to be making the rounds. After a bit of a lull, we’re on the upswing in every category related to COVID-19. Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing. The positivity rate is at an all-time high.

There’s no simple answer when it comes to why my family members—why anyone—would reject the science regarding vaccination. Politics, propaganda, anti-intellectualism and isolation all play a role. Maybe it’s a fetishized notion of rugged individualism, which, in these circumstances, I view as selfishness and a lack of compassion.

I still hope that, at some point, perhaps when the vaccines are finally approved by the FDA, my loved ones will cave. In the meantime, especially with this new COVID wave, I’ll continue to worry about them.

For those facing similar circumstances, I’m so sorry. I don’t have much to offer, other than my empathy. For what it’s worth, you’re not alone.

About Melissa Daugherty 75 Articles
Melissa Daugherty is an award-winning columnist and editorial writer who started her career as a higher education reporter at a daily newspaper. Daugherty spent 17 years at the CN&R, eight of them as editor-in-chief. Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable is her super power.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing your personal story. I hope it brought you peace knowing it will benefit others in similar situations with loved ones. Sacrifice purely for the sake of loving someone is the epicenter of enlightenment. Thank you for all your sacrifices for Henry, and the greater community of humans.

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