I’m isolated home because of a pre-existing condition, and my mother needed to protect her own health. So she was forced to make an impossible choice.

On the night of Sunday, Oct. 25, my stepfather died of COVID-19. He died of pneumonia. He died of a stroke. But most importantly, he died alone. Because of President Donald Trump. 

It didn’t have to be like this. How many lives were lost or ruined, that didn’t have to be? As White House chief of staff Mark Meadows put it, “We are not going to control the pandemic.” He said that just hours before my stepdad passed away. 

For over 20 years Randy has been a big, bold part of my life, and I can’t quite grasp yet what this life will look like without him in it. In my quiet, Midwestern and introverted family, he stood out with his exuberance and his stories that you could never quite tell which were wholly true. He shook up my family’s world, and repainted it in brighter colors. Now those colors are fading to black.

He suffered a stroke in early September and moved to a nursing home on Sept. 30, after a stint in the hospital. By Oct. 10, he had a fever and, on Oct. 12, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Pneumonia set in a few days before he died. The nursing home didn’t allow any visitors because of the pandemic. Period. Mom was sometimes allowed to FaceTime him during this time, but that was all. She was able to mask and glove up and see him briefly in the end, but she could not be there when he finally left us forever. 

Tired of impossible choices

Because of how we’ve failed to handle this pandemic, my mom had to choose whether to risk her own life to be in the room to say goodbye to her dying husband. His son and daughter couldn’t say their goodbyes in person since they live many miles away in California, and my sister and I are helpless bystanders several states away.

Due to the incompetence of this administration, we’re forced into an impossible dilemma: our family versus our own safety. 

Randy Cavanaugh and Kathy Carlson Cavanaugh, Laura Packard’s mother, on April 18, 2018, in Cookeville, Tennessee. (Photo: Family handout)

Trump may be “tired” of hearing about coronavirus, but we have to live with the consequences of his actions and inaction. Even after his own diagnosis, he continues to hold rallies, unmasked, around the country, leaving a trail of likely super spreader events behind him and in the White House. After all the sacrifices our country has made, he sacrifices nothing. 

I’m tired too. Because of the raging pandemic, there is no completely safe way to travel across the country right now that doesn’t carry germs with me. I cannot bear the possibility of infecting my mom, and