Thanksgiving story of survival, faith, and love

Couple says their perspective about life has changed

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Thanksgiving brings a sense of solemness and gratitude to most Americans. It is a time to pause, reflect, and breathe slow after a year of busy days and long nights and before the rush that always defines December. But for Terry and Angie Alley, every day from now on will be a day of Thanksgiving.

“Our perspective on life has changed,” Angie Alley explained. “We do not care about the commercial aspects of holidays or life, in general. Our lives are simplified. The people who share our successes and struggles are most important to us. We are more intentional with our time and resources.”

Right after Thanksgiving 2020, the Alleys found themselves in the middle of what can only be described as a nightmare. On Dec. 11, 2020, Terry Alley was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The next two months were a roller coaster of emotions for the Alleys as Terry went from sick to bad to worse and spent time in the ICU with COVID pneumonia, was put on a ventilator – something that has signaled the beginning of the end for too many as COVID-19 has gripped communities around the world.

“Prayer kept my sanity during Terry’s illness,” Angie said, acknowledging the long days of uncertainty and the sleepless nights where all she could do was pray and hope for the day that she and her husband could smile and hug each other, and even now, she says it is faith and prayer that are helping them to heal. “Romans 12:12 continues to be a source of comfort for us. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

After 30 days in the hospital and 10 days in a rehabilitation center where Terry had to learn to breathe again and how to walk with a cane and begin to slowly build enough strength to stand and even to be able sit for extended periods, he was finally able to head home where family and friends had built a ramp on the front of his Sparta home and had helped Angie with making other modifications that would allow Terry to continue to recover in comfort and, at the same time, give him back some independence.

“We would like people to understand that everyone’s experience with COVID is different,” Angie said, “There are many different theories and schools of thought regarding COVID. Everyone should actively research non-biased sources and choose the best care for them. Our experience is vastly different than others’.”

But, just because it is almost 12 months since his original diagnosis and that it is nine months since he was released from a variety of therapies, Angie said the signs of the virus still linger for Terry.

“Terry has lasting health issues that were not present prior to COVID,” she said.

Angie further stated that  continual contact with their family care provider as well as specialists is part of their normal life now, and that in addition to lasting physical health issues, Terry has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“PTSD has completely changed our way of life. We do not attend events or social gatherings with large numbers of people. We also plan shopping and carry out routine errands during less busy hours. We are unable to attend our church worship services. Severe social anxiety can be crippling and contributes to brain fog and panic.”

While the Alleys say they would like to be able to travel again and to feel comfortable in larger crowds or even to attend church, that regardless of when those things happen, they will be celebrating all holidays a little differently from now on, and those celebrations won’t likely ever include crowds again. Instead, they will be very deliberately choosing how to celebrate and will ensure they take in the time and moments with loved ones. They know all too well how precious that time is.

“This year, we have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with our son and his wife in Clarksville,” Angie said that they had no second thoughts about making the trip to see their soldier son and his wife, and they only regret the years they couldn’t. “We haven’t celebrated a holiday with Caleb and Kayla in many years.”

While Terry and Angie Alley will not be in Sparta for the anniversary of the last holiday they celebrated pre-COVID, that doesn’t mean their thoughts won’t drift to the friends and family who have made all the difference for them during the past year.

“We would like for everyone to know how grateful and thankful we are for Terry’s life,” Angie said .

Angie said she and Terry have so much to be thankful for this year, and there is no way they could name all of the people who provided support, both emotional and physical, to them since last year’s holiday.

“We thank each person who muttered our names in prayer,” she said. “We thank the many people who helped me prepare our home for Terry’s homecoming. We are also very grateful to our team of doctors.”

Terry’s COVID-19 diagnosis last year was difficult, and the past 11 months have not been what the couple envisioned their life would be filled with, but they also know the fact that Terry is still making memories with his wife and his family is something to be grateful for, and that is where they will focus their attention moving forward.

“I resent all the hate and divide that COVID has created in our nation. At the end of the day, all of the controversy is not productive or useful,” Angie said, and expressed her hope that communities everywhere will learn to be patient and empathetic, which would be the most positive outcome that could come from both the Alleys, and the world’s, experience with the virus. “For the nation and world, I hope this virus can teach everyone to be kinder and more gentle with one another. We do not know others’ situations and what someone may or may not be struggling with.”

For the Alleys, they will move forward with faith, love, kindness, and gratitude, because, for them, every new day is a day of Thanksgiving.        

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