Unable to find closure after her fiance's death from COVID-19 in early 2020, Augusta Township resident Monica Hickson wrote a book to give herself that closure and help others who have lost loved ones to the pandemic.
"This book is for the 500,000 people who have been left behind until now," she says, referring to the 514,000 U.S. citizens who have died from COVID-19.
Hickson describes the book, entitled "The COVID Diaries: The Last Days of My Normal," as a memorial for her fiance, David Norman Reed. She says she wants to put a face on the statistics.
"People talk about numbers like 300,000 or now 500,000. But these people had names, and I want them to know the names," she says. "I needed David Norman Reed to be recognized as one of those victims. They're not numbers to their family members."
David Norman Reed and Monica Hickson.
She calls Reed, who died at age 60, "a gentle giant" who was a music lover, interested in current events and a dedicated follower of MSNBC journalists Julia Reed and Rachel Maddow, and an "opinionated, loving sweetheart." He was also extremely friendly and outgoing.
"He never met a stranger, because everyone he met became a friend," she says. "He would talk to anybody and everybody. He'd go to the grocery store and come out with a new friend instead of a loaf of bread."
He was also likely among the first COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County. Hickson says Reed, a lover of jazz, house, and reggae music, went to a couple of concerts just days before Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released her first "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order. He may have contracted the virus at one of those shows, since a DJ at one of the shows became sick and died of COVID-19 as well. Reed also may have picked up the virus at his part-time job at the Hertz rental agency at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, she says.
"He wasn't oblivious," Hickson says. "It's just that we thought, 'It's coming,' and not, 'It's here.' He was thinking, 'It'll be here next week, so let's party while I can.' But it was already here, and we had no idea it would get this bad."
Once Reed developed symptoms and could barely breathe, Hickson knew it was time to take him to the emergency room. She had to drop him off at the curb and couldn't come inside to settle his insurance information. He was in the hospital for 21 days before he died, during which she couldn't even speak to him because he had a tracheotomy and later was put into a medically-induced coma.
She says it was devastating and unthinkable "to drop somebody off at the curb at the hospital and never see him again."
The lack of closure included being unable to have a funeral or memorial service. Even if there had been one, none of his family members in California would have been able to make it, Hickson says.
Hickson has kept a diary off and on during her adulthood. She drew on some of her diary entries to recall the time that Reed was in the hospital and after he passed in April 2020. She says she almost gave up on the book a number of times. But then she closed her eyes and felt Reed there with her, and began to type again. After she felt his presence, the story flowed.
"I felt like he was saying, 'You're doing it for me and for those people. Keep going.' I wrote this book for closure for me, but mainly for him to be memorialized," Hickson says. "I hope this book helps other families to know that we are all in this together."
Hickson's book is available for purchase on Amazon. She also joined Concentrate's writing staff in February and has since written these two articles for the site.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Monica Hickson.