Terrors of the Night

COVID-19 presents a "damned if I do and damned if I don’t" situation



Joyce hears the thunderous drone of German bombers flying overhead, so dense that they blot out the sun like a dark storm cloud. At seven years old, she’s experiencing The Battle of Britain. Citizens must stay at home with black-out conditions at night.

While trying to fall asleep, she hears the heavy thud of exploding bombs. As the planes fly closer, there’s a flash of light, then the house shudders and trembles. Glass pendants on the nightstand lamp clink and tinkle. She pulls the quilted covers over her head to hide from fear, and trembles until her mother gets into bed to hug and comfort her.

If they should fall asleep from exhaustion, another explosion could shake them awake. If they can’t sleep at all, they pray and anxiously await daybreak to survive the terrors of the night.


I heard Joyce’s life story in my writing group years ago and now can easily relate, because in a strange and unexpected way I’m experiencing it. Aging into my seventies, I have been threatened, assaulted, and wearied by the pernicious heart disease called Sick Sinus Syndrome. Manifesting as irregular chaotic heartbeat rhythms, it feels like bombs thumping within my chest, especially during the night as I try to sleep. It frightens and worries me. It has become my Battle of Britain. Will I survive and wake in the morning?

The likelihood of my dying from a stroke or infarction is high since all my family is genetically prone to heart disease. My father died of congestive heart failure (CHF) when he was younger than I am now. My episodes come and go but now tend to linger. I should get to the doctor but COVID-19 has me in a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” situation. Given this underlying heart condition, if I contract the novel virus I’m most likely dead. But I can also die in my sleep from CHF, stuck in home isolation.

I find myself praying often for guidance from the promised Comforter (John 14:16). I sometimes weep from being so alone, working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Am I ready to meet my Maker in final judgment? At least I know what I’ll likely die of, and this constant anguish has thrust into perspective my life priorities.

Sometimes at midnight, I feel a warm, comforting maternal presence snuggle up and hug me like that girl’s mother. If I should fall asleep from exhaustion, another chaotic sinus episode could shake me awake. If I can’t sleep at all, I pray and anxiously await daybreak to survive the terrors of the night.


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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