A man who loses his beloved wife to covid-19 has earned the standing to comment on his beliefs about this potentially deadly virus.
Lifelong friend Ron Patrick, whose beautiful spouse Mary succumbed to the virus last year before vaccines were available, is convinced she would have survived had she had the chance to get the shot.
Instead, she was transported by ambulance from the North Arkansas Regional Medical Center to Washington Regional in Fayetteville where she soon wound up on a ventilator until her passing not long afterwards.
A cell video recorded her words shouted to Ron and daughter Casey as she was loaded 20 yards away onto the ambulance: "Love you all. See you soon!"
Mary soon succumbed, separated by 80 miles from family and loved ones.
Ron, 76, has had a year to reflect as the Delta variant surges while thousands among us refuse to take the vaccines proven to greatly diminish hospitalizations and the chance of death from covid.
The other day during a reflective visit, Ron and retired Presbyterian minister Richard Shinkle sipped on icy beverages during our three-way discussion. Ron said he views covid much like a bullet inserted into a multi-chambered pistol in a deadly game of "covid roulette."
"Those who choose not to get this safeguard at no cost are betting the potentially fatal or life-altering covid bullet won't revolve around to them. But each time the trigger is pulled and a fresh cylinder accepts the next viral bullet, someone winds up being struck. It is repeated as people who choose not to become protected are betting they aren't the one hospitalized, strapped to a ventilator or gone from this world. By then it's too late to wish you'd been vaccinated.
"I was lucky, after also having contracted covid last year and getting through it," Ron continued. "I've since taken the booster to hopefully keep me safe from contacting the Delta variant. Even if that happens, based on the evidence, I expect the symptoms will be mild.
"Yet Mary will still be gone and that crushing pain persists."
Dave "DR" Johnson about the column on character: "The American frontier was a line of sturdy, stubborn pioneers that moved geographically over time from east to west. The qualities of those people were different than those who stayed behind.
"Most of my reading is regarding the Western frontier. They had a saying, "character matters in horses, dogs, and people". Think of all the attributes that describe 'character.' Why would it matter so? Because of dependability. Pioneer people depended on other people, horses and dogs.
"Today we have no frontiers. We're civilized ... yet my character is sharpened and illuminated when someone depends on me. If no one needs me or is not depending on me, my character gets lazy. Today, people depend on government services, churches, charities and organizations. Neighbors or other people ... not so much. Thus, an individual's character breaks down.
"In military conflict and team sports, character is lives, since those people depend upon one another."
Subscriber Ann Dickey Hancock asks a valid question: "I want to say something about the spirituality debate. You don't believe in God? Fine. Why is it so important for many of you to mock those of us who do? If we're wrong, what have we lost when we die? Nothing!
"How does our believing in Jesus bring you any harm? You think it makes me stupid? Gullible? Fine. How does that affect you? If you're wrong, your consequence is far worse. I would rather live my life believing in God and serving him, and find out I was right, than not believe in and serve him, and discover I was wrong. Then it's too late. There's no shame in my game!"
Mary Rugen-Ishmael writes: "Was just reading your column and wanted to let you know my Medicare Part C provided by Arkansas Blue Medicare includes dental, vision, and prescriptions and costs me $49 per month. The dental coverage is actually better than what I had with a separate policy though Arkansas BCBS.
"On a separate note, why is it when you're filling out questionnaires about your medical history and conditions, they never ask about your dental health? Given that poor dental hygiene and oral problems contribute to heart disease, you'd think that would be an important question."
Need local journalists
From Calvin L. Norton: "Kudos, sir, on this opinion piece. It should also be viewed as a lesson. Journalism (as opposed to reporting) does still exist. That is so easy to forget what with the current state of 'news.'
"Let's get a nationwide news channel run by small-town journalists from the breadth of America."
Praising The Record
Edith Fisher wrote: "Your column in today's ADG was the best you've written. I've long mourned the demise of the small-town newspaper. Ellen Kreth and Shannon Hahn are like the late Charlotte Schexnayder: frontline defenders of democracy. And your explanation of exactly what First Amendment reporting is gave me a clear expression of the issue."
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.