David Norman Reed loved to dance, particularly to house music. A house party was where he met Monica Hickson, a fellow dance-lover. As a couple, they were full of life and they were together for nine years moving from friends, to partners, to fiancés. David Norman Reed died in a hospital without Monica advocating at his side. COVID-19 took his life, and he was not given a funeral or a memorial.
The Covid Diaries: The Last Days of my Normal became his memorial.
The book was released on February 3, 2021, a little less than a year from when David was first hospitalized.
Hickson currently works for the University of Michigan as an Instructional Designer and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion facilitator. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University and later a Master’s in Education from Central Michigan University. The Covid Diaries is her first book and was born in the span of a month. The story follows her relationship with David and then later her process through grieving.
“I’ve wanted to write since I was 16,” Hickson said. “I did [write], but I never completed. I just never felt that anybody wanted to hear what I had to say and this was different. It’s timely if nothing else and I’ve lived it.”
Part of the book is in a diary format where the reader can learn how Hickson went through the stages and types of grief. The “types of grief” was an idea new to Hickson but it was one she really resonated with. After David’s death, Hickson did a lot of research into the types of grief because she was working through her grieving process.
“You do not go through the stages of grief and then you are out of it,” Hickson said. “You can circle in those stages for a long period of time so I’m just very transparent about that.”
Many people associate COVID-19 deaths with elderly people, but Hickson saw herself in a slightly different position because David had been barely 60-years-old. To bring readers into her perspective, she included many artifacts in her book including photos, comments from his Facebook feed, and descriptions of his bodily features.
“I want to make sure that he is a face,” Hickson said. “Make sure that he gets acknowledged along with the other 500,000 families of the victims. I want to make sure that it comes across as not just a book about my experiences, but also to help those who have suffered alone.”
Hickson has learned first-hand that losing someone to COVID-19 is different than any other situation. Due to the pandemic, she was not able to be with him at the hospital or arrange a funeral. Hickson has grieved for many others, but because those rites of passage were taken from David she had to honor him in a non-traditional way.
“Because we are in a pandemic, I could not go to the hospital,” Hickson said. For her, not being able to go and support him in the hospital was mentally exhausting. “Having to drop him off at the curb of the hospital and not being able to go in and advocate for him, you are used to going to the hospital with patients to be their support.”
The grieving process is long-lasting and Hickson is continuously working through it. In her opinion, as David’s fiancé, she is dealing with a different field of grief compared to if they had married.
She is currently working on her second book which she hopes will be a type of grieving workbook. For Hickson, there is a new normal. Going to the store and seeing people wearing masks reminds her of loss. Seeing news headlines plagues her psyche. It is hard to get over something while you are going through it, but The Covid Diaries reminds us that we are here together.