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


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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