I noticed my last blog post was from April 2021, a few months shy of two years ago. I am sitting here in front of a fire on a cold winter evening (3Feb23) contemplating everything that has happened since then. After all that has transpired, I figured I’d start creating again but not exactly sure how or when.
April 2021 was a good month for me professionally. I was working on things that were both satisfying and impactful for the company I work for. I had uncovered an opportunity that would be significant progress for all of us. Those were exciting times.
We were also in the middle of a full blown pandemic for most of this time. Officially, it is not quite over. Neither I nor anyone I personally knew had been sick with COVID-19 during the height of the global infection as the whole world was basically still in “lock-down”. The news constantly reported all the bad things that were happening, all the people that had died or were dying. At this point it was in the millions world wide who had perished from this disease. No one knew what was going on. No one knew how to make it stop. There were no vaccines to give to people that were proven to stop this pandemic from getting worse. Everyone was doing the best they could to navigate these times. Looking back, it was not easy mainly because no one had answers.
The company I work for was not allowing people to travel at all. In order to travel we had to have permission. And even with permission no one was traveling by air. It was basically once-off meetings in person where it made sense to do so. We all had spent 100’s of hours on Zoom calls moving forward the best we could. It was working but it was not normal compared to all my years past.
We had been in the pandemic for a solid 12 months now and things were starting to change a little. Some states were considering “opening” up a little by relaxing some of the restrictions if you had the vaccine (which I hadn’t yet). If people were high risk or otherwise able to get a vaccine it would soon be available for those people who go them first. It would not be available to me for some time to come.
So we mask up. We go about our time doing the best we can hoping that the virus runs it’s course without affecting those we love. No one we knew had been sick yet still we were being careful.
It is May 2021 and I am excited to go on a motorcycle ride with my dad, brother, family and some friends. Motorcycling being what it is, you are outside in the elements with the wind in your face. Hardly any way for the virus to take hold in that environment. We were all careful to mask up when around others and went on this ride together.
There are some notable firsts in the photo above.
It was the first time Katherine would ride her own motorcycle on a tour like this. It was the first time that I had been terrified for someone else’s safety on a motorcycle! It was the first time in some time and the first time in 2021 that we had all be able to get together. It was the first time we were in large gatherings of people outside in a year. It was the first time I’d seen so many people and not one of them wearing a mask like we all had the year past.
There were some notable lasts. This is the last group ride we will do together as a family. This is the last motorcycle related trip I would make with my father. It would be the last time I rode motorcycles with my brother, my niece Katherine or Paul’s friend John.
It would be the last time I would be with my brother before he died of complications related to COVID-19.
The next few months after this trip are a blur. Two weeks after this trip I would meet some friends I hadn’t seen in some time. I went on a solo trip on my motorcycle in Arkansas and go on another solo trip to see a band I enjoy on YouTube at a Branson, Missouri venue. May, June, July and August would come and go with most of that time spent on my professional career. Fairly nominal life as I recall being laser focused on some of my work. I had a lot of things going on at work and it was consuming most of my time.
In early September my immediate family spent some time together in New Mexico near Taos and then in the Denver/Boulder area for a week or so. I was able to ride my motorcycle solo on some truly epic roads with some of the most awesome weather I had in a while. Those were fun and special times. We were still masking up but we were able to spend some time together which was super fun. I would not be vaccinated for two more weeks so I was still being very careful around others.
After that vacation I had to hurry back home to finish up some work I was doing in Florida. I was home for a week and then off to the Sunshine State. Everywhere I went it was very environmentally controlled. By then I had my first vaccine and for those vaccinated the rules were a little more relaxed. Masks were becoming optional but still widely worn in my circles. Being one of the only people with a vaccine in my company, in my group in particular, I was able to travel when others who either didn’t have the vaccine or refused to get the vaccine were not able to travel. Because of the low level of vaccinated people on my work team I was incredibly busy at work covering many bases there.
It was on this trip that I would learn of my brother being admitted to a Texas hospital in a treatment area for those with COVID-19. He was in an isolation hospital unit for those with infectious and contagious disease. I would learn that his condition before being admitted to the hospital was grave.
Once in the hospital the doctors were able to get him back in this world but it was not going to be easy because he had issues that got him there that needed to be dealt with. Some were addressable but the COVID-19 was not. He had COVID-19 (DELTA) and there was nothing anyone could do other than to make sure he was hydrated and let the virus take it’s course.
That was the hope. It was September. Life was busy and getting busier. Now our family has a “man down” 1,500 miles from my home. Seasons are changing. Warm air is being replaced with cold. I left Florida for home where I would stay for a while.
Mid November my youngest was home and wanted to meet a friend in Blacksburg so I rented a fast plane and took her to meet them there. These trips in the planes with my family and friends are always fun. They can also be “interesting” and this one had its excitement. Like with an aircraft of this type they can be complicated to learn all their quirks. The flight was fun and safe after dealing with one of those quirks. Winter weather was coming which always puts a twist on flying. Headwinds there and tailwinds back got me to/from Blacksburg in a hurry. Coming back home I was traveling 200 m.p.h over ground in this plane. Not bad for a cruise speed of somewhere around 150.
Even though things felt like they were getting back to normal the entire world was still in lock-down. It was feeling like we were getting through this pandemic. I am still optimistic that things would change for Paul. Unfortunately, his situation is getting much worse.
For the first few days Paul was in the hospital we were able to text one another. He would tell me that it was hard to move around. That it was hard to breath but that it was also hard to explain why. He would tell me in these texts that he could not take a full breath of air and that it was hard not to panic when doing so. He was hot. Then cold. Sleepless. Tired. Mostly tired. He told me that just eating a meal or drinking a glass of water was exhausting and took all of his energy.
Being somewhat of a digital hoarder I keep things like texts from others indefinitely. Mostly they help me with my “diary” of current events and help me remember what people say on a normal, sometimes busy, day. Usually it’s all benign things, logistics and such. So I do have all the texts from Paul. I’ve struggled with the decision to post them here or not. I ultimately decided not to do that in its entirety but do want to share some of them.
We tended to text each other quite a bit but it could be sporadic with gaps in between busy times in life. The last normal text I got from him was us discussing 3D printed parts for drones. Ya know, normal stuff for people with similar interests.
Him: “I just bought a 3D printer… do you have a joystick protector for your drone? Just made one for myself…. making another.. happy to make you one or more if you want one. Me: “Yes, but I had to buy mine! :)”
He was like that. He would find things that he liked and introduce them to others. I found him always wanting to share cool ideas and things he was working on. He was never afraid of trying something new. That is a trait of our family.
Back in the hospital Paul was following all the instructions from the nurses there. Everyone was hopeful that this would be a short lived problem caught early enough that with the proper help from the hospital staff he would be back home and getting back to normal life.
That would not happen. He sought help too late. This would have to run its course.
Soon the text replies would slow. And then they would stop. After stopping I would send more texts hopeful that once he was rested enough he would reply back. He would not reply back to me again.
On the morning of 6 October 2021 I would learn that he could not breath on his own. His oxygen levels were too low and he decided on his own to be intubated allowing him some time to rest under the direct care of a doctor without the stress and anxiety he was experiencing.
// There is a lot missing in between these written words. My focus in life would suddenly change. Life would become consuming. I do not remember or write down a lot of detail from the next few weeks that did not pertain to figuring out what was happening to Paul. //
Although I would see him still alive in this world again he would never return fully back to us. Soon, his health would deteriorate. There would be nothing else anyone could do. It was clear he would pass soon and the only reason he was still with us was a breathing machine and narcotics. The latter were doing him no favors. He could not breath on his own. There was no hope of him ever being able to breath on his own again without a machine. And even with a machine his quality of life would likely be poor.
After many days of medical heroics, medicine and medical help had run its course. On the evening of 19 November 2021 his closest family would gather together at the hospital to say goodbye. His breathing machine was removed and he passed with all of us there with him. Frankly, one of the hardest things I have had to endure.
Paul would die the Friday before Thanksgiving, November 19, 2021 at 18:58 CT near his Hutto, TX home.
“Did I tell him I loved him?”, I kept thinking. This was one of the the weird thoughts that comes to mind in a time of crisis like this. The answer was “yes” and I had the texts to prove it. That fact made things a little easier, but not much.
This entire blog sucks to write. I am not one to write stories without happy endings. It is a shitty end to a story none of us wish would have to be written. He left behind 15 children, grand children, parents, a brother, sisters, extended family and many close friends who loved him. He left this planet way, way too early.
But left he did. There is no going back and undoing anything at this point. What has been said is said. What has been done is done. Any missing pieces are left to us to sort through on our own. There will be many days of introspection to come.
On the evening of Paul’s death, after everyone left the hospital floor, my parents and I stood outside of the hospital in the parking lot. We asked each other, “What do we do now?”
What do you do when a family member dies? I have no fucking clue.
I still don’t know.
That night we shared dinner together and left the next day to pick up all the pieces of this crazy few months of life we have just lived through. It sucks. There is no way around that. I think we are all moving forward the best way we know how.
Adios, Paul Westerman. You are missed. See ya on the flip side.
I am going to go back to creating. See you on the next blog post.