Author: Chaplain Kristian Carlson, M.Div. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), Th.M. (Duke Divinity School), Lieutenant Commander, Navy Chaplain Corps, serving at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Friends, I want to share my father’s ongoing severe COVID19 story. He and mom have been fighting the illness for @ 18 days. Dad, Harold T. Carlson, is a retired active-duty US Army Colonel Chaplain. He wrote the Army Corps of Engineers’ Official Prayer and served as Installation Chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood, MO for his last assignment (2003-2005). I thought sharing might illuminate the issue to the American public, as we do our best to grasp the strangeness of living during a pandemic, and to grapple with its personal cost, one family, one relationship at a time.
Perhaps it is timely, too, as many struggle with vaccine and mask mandates which seem to challenge our nation’s hard-won ethos of personal liberty. This tale, is a concrete account of the dangers of COVID to some, but of the intrepid heart to recover wellness by one man —a Soldier, person of faith, beloved husband, father, brother, and grandpa.
With the support of my military command leadership, I took short-suspense leave this past THU, 16 SEP, 2021 to visit my father who was admitted to the Phelps County Hospital Emergency Room in Rolla Missouri, 14 SEP, due to complications from COVID19. Upon admission, dad needed 60 liters of O2 per minute for his lungs. By FRI, 17 SEP he was down to 13 liters per minute –according to his physician, that meant that 57% of his 02 was coming from a tank as he produced 43% on his own. At 5 liters per minute he can likely return home with mobile O2 support.
As a military chaplain and ordained minister, I had the privilege to visit my dad and the medical staff in the negative pressure COVID19 isolation ward on the hospital’s fourth floor.
Harold, “Dad T.“ was drafted in 1971 for Vietnam. He has been married for 52 years to Judy.
They have 6 children, and 28 grandchildren. The youngest is Caroline, born July 9th, 2021.
In my lifetime, Dad has never overnighted at a hospital. He enjoys running a small 40-acre farm in the Ozarks. He was the college MVP in basketball at Trinity in Deerfield, IL. In short, he’s lived a life of great health. I have seen my father four times since arriving on THU. It is about a 75-mile-trip from Huggins, MO in the rural Ozarks, to the hospital in Rolla. The staff are heroes to me, like: Dr. Gibbs, my dad’s physician; Kaitlynn, the director of nursing; and Charisma, dad’s 18-year-old night-time aide. They serve long hours. The work there is constant, and has been for 18 months. They respond to regular intercom calls from lonely and sick patients. 24/7, they wear their masks and PPE, then go home to themselves, loved ones, and little ones. And they know that their halls of full rooms, two beds per space, and ER patients on a wait list, will keep filling with patients like my father—who waited three days to be admitted. The patients often just holding on for life, as the woman who on Sunday was life-flighted by Dr. Gibbs to a larger facility due to internal bleeding.
The hardest part of the trip was to see Mom’s after-effects from COVID’s ravages upon her appetite, confidence, and spirits. She was hit very hard to be away from the companionship regularly shared with Dad.
My special needs Sister, Liz, 43, lives with them as a dependent. She is a wonderful person, who lives fully, but lives with significant challenges, from intellectual and developmental disabilities. This morning as I prepared to drive to the airport in St. Louis to head back to military duty, Mom pleaded, “Don’t go” I don’t think she felt safe without Dad. It was such a hard goodbye.
After seeing Dad at the hospital enroute to my flights back to Texas, he sent this poem. It is poignant and may help Americans picture the challenges of “Covid’s Grip.”
COVID’s GRIP LOST
Have you ever had pain that wouldn’t go? I have.
Have you ever felt terrible, head to toe? I have.
Have you ever felt clasped with Covid’s grip and wanted to end its trip? I have.
Have you ever felt just lame -not keen- & like a loser who can’t stand?
And help her walk
And help her stand
And make her food
And stroke her brow
And reassure her anyhow
And let her know she’s not alone? I have.
Have you ever heard five times, or more, from different ones upon the floor,
“Shall we try, if you should die, or let you slip away?” I’d say, “Just try.”
But better still, let’s stay away from what seems far away
from those I love who make my day– I have.
Have you ever known, you’re not alone,
that family dear has come to cheer,
to wipe my brow, to dry a tear? I have.
From dearest “Jude” to “Caroline”, you are the best.
You’ll pull me through, and then, Watch Out–
I’ll rise and shine and laugh
and play and drink some wine. I will!
–-Dad T. COL (Chaplain, U.S. Army, Retired)
Harold T. Carlson, 20 SEP 2021
Phelps County Hospital
Rolla, Missouri, Room 410
As a final word, which brings together our thankfulness that Dad is alive, and by the clear mercy of God, I want to share a poem written by my “little brother”, Nels, a husband and father of five.
Nels Carlson is an Army Chaplain (Captain), serving at a FORSCOM unit at Fort Riley, Kansas. He penned this poem yesterday as a response to Dad’s poem “Covid’s Grip Lost.”
COVID’s GRIP LOST–an Antiphony
Like the blood the Lamb possessed
Like it’s falling to the ground
Like the looming death angel’s shadow
None could escape
None could escape
So was our plight
So was our plight
Yet the blood, oh the blood
Yes the blood of the Lamb
That covered the door posts
Of all who believed
Yes the blood of the Lamb for all who believe
This is our Life, He is our Life
And though the cursed plague
Would cling to the frame
The frame of our hearts
The frame of our minds
Though the darkness would bind all the HOPE still inside
Yet it must through the mist hear HIS cry!
IT IS FINISHED
And death must now die
Forever must die
O Savior forever
I hear your cry
Nels Carlson, 20 SEP ’21
As I close I wanted to share a link about Dad T’s service from US Congresswoman, Vicky Hartzler. She commends Army Chaplains and then highlights Dad’s ministry when he served as a Chaplain at Fort Wainwright, AK from 1987-1992.
Also, below is an article on the privilege of my serving as a Navy Chaplain in the footsteps of Dad T: