Mac Hodges never knew a stranger. Whether you knew him as a friend or as the committed mayor of Washington, if you knew Mac, he knew you right back.
My family and I knew Mac Hodges as a loving husband, father and grandfather. To me, he was just dad.
Washington, and eastern North Carolina in general, is a small, tight-knit community. Something that affects one of us, affects us all. The outpouring of support that my family received when my dad passed away on Aug. 12 due to complications from COVID-19 only confirmed this.
This holiday season, our family is one person smaller. I want to take this moment to share our family’s experience with COVID-19 in the hopes that those in our community consider taking added precautions to make their holiday gatherings as safe as possible.
Dad’s personal experience with COVID-19 taught us a lot about the dangers of this virus. Early on, our family took some steps to protect ourselves, like wearing masks at community events and staying at home more than usual. We were following safety guidelines, but we weren’t doing things perfectly.
Everything hit home when our family was directly affected. In total, we had six family members who caught COVID-19, including my children and myself. It was different for all of us and some barely had any symptoms at all. My dad got the worst of it, though, and it was not long before he was at Vidant Beaufort Hospital and later Vidant Medical Center to get intubated and receive treatment.
The care team that treated my dad at both Vidant Beaufort and VMC were amazing. They patiently answered our questions, helped us understand potential treatments and kept us in the loop on his status. In the end, the virus took its toll and my dad passed away.
Make no mistake, this virus is real and it does not care about who it infects. I encourage everyone, especially my fellow Washington community members, to take extra precautions this holiday season: wear a mask, social distance and practice the safety measures that can help us care for each other.
Dad always encouraged us to get outside of our comfort zones and penning this letter is not easy. In life, my dad was a community servant committed to doing what was right. In death, that spirit continues to live on. If he was still here with us, he would want us all to work together, wear a mask, social distance and take care of each other because our community depends on it.
Sara Hodges Bell is the daughter of the late Washington, N.C., mayor, Mac Hodges.