By Robbie Owens

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – One year ago, March 9, 2020, marked North Texas’ first Covid-19 diagnosis, launching a year that saw our lives turned upside down.

“I remember hearing about COVID,” says Rev. Robert Pace, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. “I mean, it’s one of those terrible things that was sweeping the world, but like I imagine, most people. I couldn’t imagine that it would come to me or come to us. Just couldn’t even imagine it.”

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The Rev. Pace would soon learn just how wrong he was.

After traveling to Kentucky for a church conference, he began feeling ill, but wanted to believe it was a cold.

“I just had a terrible cough and fever, that wasn’t going away,” he recalls, “but never in a million years, could I imagine COVID.”

Rev. Robert Pace (CBS 11)

Struggling to breathe, he could barely walk by the time his doctor met him at a local hospital. His wife, he calls her his cornerstone, got the devastating news first.

“She heard the doctors say, I see the CT scan of his lungs, and they look a lot like what we’re seeing coming out of the out of China. And that’s pretty scary,” says Rev. Pace. “And she heard those words, and it really terrified her.”

In spite of being a man of deep faith, the rector can admit to sharing those fears.

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“It was really a sinking feeling because you really think in terms of mortality at that moment.”

When asked about the most difficult day of the past 365, he says it was those first days in the hospital.

“When I didn’t know what was going on right at the very beginning when I didn’t know how it would turn.”

Even while acknowledging the terror of the moment, Rev. Pace says it would perhaps be more frightening to get that diagnosis now– when we know better that there is so much to fear.

“I think in some ways, not knowing the severity and the horror of this pandemic was one of the benefits of being on the front end of it.”

His recovery he says has been aided, emotionally, by the ability to donate plasma to help save someone else. It was one of the high points of this past difficult year, to meet the recipient and his family.

“And we cried together and met and it was a really joyful, incredible day,” shares Rev. Pace, “and in the year that there weren’t a lot of joyful times, to be able to do that was, was a powerful memory.”

The rector says his unintended Covid journey has made him more introspective, more resilient, and more grateful.

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“I don’t take nearly as many things for granted, as I did before. I pay more attention to the things that I love and I watch them very carefully and hold them tight.”