What we lose by communicating by SMS in the event of a pandemic

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She has bilateral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress. Doctors explain his inflammation to me as a “cytokine storm” ravaging his body.

Its decline is steep, only 17 days from diagnosis to death. Looking back on our messages over these 17 days, I’m struck by a reversal: it’s me reaching out to him, with frequent long texts that attempt to stretch time.

I want to be with you, hold your hand.

I know there is hope, I pray so hard.

Mom, I miss you. Are you here?

My mother’s responses, on the other hand, contract. Our last exchanges are like an opening that is closing, the last window through which I can see her.

I knowshe writes at one point, very difficult.

***

My dad is out wrestling at home, and I’m nursing him through an iPad, keeping his face close to mine as we sleep so I can listen to his breathing. When my mother dies, I don’t tell him first, fearing that he will follow me. But as the days pass, her breathing gets deeper, and the fevers that gripped her body begin to recede, and I speak the words. He was waiting for them, but his face still breaks in ways I didn’t know.

I keep my mother’s last texts, but they retain nothing of her voice: the raspy Jewish accent from the Bronx, the warmth, the descent of her tone when she knew our call had to end, so full of nostalgia and ‘love : Ok, honey… see you soon.


Jennifer Spitzer is an Associate Professor of English at Ithaca College.

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