Who We Lost Ky. – Humor Has Always Had a Place in Our Day: Story by Michael Wiemers

It’s the fall of 1981, and I’m a girl from southern California who just graduated from nursing school. I had landed my “dream job” working in the midwifery department of a local community hospital. The hospital was not particularly large, so it was easy to get to know his colleagues on other floors. One day I hear about a 3rd year medical student in training there, who was living in an RV in the parking lot of the hospital. So, a few days later, this guy, whom I didn’t recognize, walks past the nurses’ station and I blurted out to him, “Oh, you’re the one who lives in the parking lot.” Immediately I realized that I had just had an “open mouth, foot insertion” moment.

Over the next few weeks he conveniently passed by and I began to get to know him. As we chatted during the work day, I found him interesting and thought to myself that he might be the most unique person I have ever met. After several weeks, he came to see me having lunch in the nurses’ room. Looking very nervous, he asked me if I wanted to go out with him, and I said yes. Little did I know then that three years later we would get married and move to New Mexico to start our life together.

Even in the face of life’s ups and downs, we had 39 blessed years that ended when Mike went to hospital in October 2020 with diverticulitis. In the first year of the pandemic, he was advised to be assessed in the ER, but first had to take a Covid test. The next day the test came back negative, which was no surprise as we were still cautious, trying to avoid the deadly virus. When we arrived at the hospital, due to Covid restrictions, I had to leave it at the concrete barriers in the emergency department. How could I know at that moment that this would be the last time I would see him again? After two weeks in the hospital, Mike got sicker, and it wasn’t related to his diverticulitis. Eventually, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and aggressive respiratory therapy treatment began. In my twice-daily calls with her nurses, they told me that her condition seemed to be getting worse. He couldn’t maintain his oxygen level and his shortness of breath was worse. The doctors called to get my permission to put him on a ventilator because he couldn’t defend himself anymore.

Five days later, on a Saturday evening, the phone rang: it’s the hospital. Over the phone, I heard that the love of my life had tested positive for Covid. At that moment, it felt like I had been punched, with all the air leaving my body. I was so shocked that I couldn’t even find the words to form a sentence.

And just like that, the conversation shifted from his slow recovery to discussing end-of-life issues. In the blink of an eye, my world was turned upside down. Apparently while in hospital Mike had been exposed and had been infected with Covid. Six days later, all hope was gone. Mike’s healthy lungs were now so badly scarred that he would never function without the ventilator. Due to Covid restrictions, there would be no opportunity to sit by his bedside, hold his hand and say the latter goodbye.

Later that day, Mike was gone. He died alone with his doctor in the room. I had lost my person, my everything, my accomplice. There is no doubt that we loved each other, but equally precious was the fact that we still loved each other very much, after all these years.

And so, I chose to celebrate our history together by remembering Mike’s keen sense of humor. With his impeccable timing, he was a master joke teller. He had this ability to convince his family and friends to believe just about anything. And after getting his hook into you, he followed with his famous “no, I got you”.

One day during Mike’s career as a medical officer, he came home from work telling me that he had been assigned to temporary duty in the Black Sea and had to go to Istanbul to catch his naval vessel, to which I replied, “yeah, okay.” He tried everything to convince me, but with this wacky story, I did not believe. Indeed 3 weeks later, he is on a plane for Istanbul.

We still laughed at that moment from time to time, which makes sense because during our many years together, humor has always had a place in our day. It has been said that laughter is the key to a long happy life. We both got it, sometimes even on the darkest days. We had fun in our daily lives, whether it was cooking a simple meal or popping it to scare me as I walked down a dark hallway. Even after all these years, we had a strong appreciation for each other.
One of the cruelest consequences of Covid is the number of victims of the virus, like Mike, who died alone. I organized a Yellow Heart Memorial at the Pavilion Recreation Center in Georgetown, Kentucky, which will begin in April. Each heart symbolizes a person lost to the pandemic, but instead of being alone, the hearts come together, in solidarity, keeping each other company and those of us left behind. Michael’s yellow heart will be on this wall.

Mike Wiemers was an incredible man with an undeniable love of life. He loved me, the kids Bryan and Lara, and we all loved him back.