It was Thursday evening, March 19th when my phone rang. Covid-19 reality was setting into our community as the area ski resorts had closed four days before, and my Mom’s assisted living center had closed its doors to the outside world two weeks before.
It was my sister calling to tell me that our 84-year-old Dad had passed away from a massive heart attack that afternoon. He had been doing yard work which he loved. Dad had a long history of cardiac issues and I had lost count of how many stints he had put in over the years, so in a way, this wasn’t a major surprise.
I sat speechless on my couch. My sister’s and my first thought was, how are we going to tell our Mom? Our parents had divorced over 30 years ago, and barely spoke to each other for years, but in the last few months they had reconnected and had become friends again. Legacy Lodge was in lockdown and I was not going to give this news to my Mom over the phone.
I called Miekka Zanders, the Executive Director, and we put a plan in motion for the next morning. Clean clothes donned, my computer and phone were wiped down with Clorox wipes, my temperature was taken, exposure questions answered, hand sanitizer and mask in place, I went to tell Mom.
While I held her hands when I told her, I so desperately wanted to hug her but couldn’t. I had 40 other people living in Legacy Lodge on my mind and their health and safety were paramount. We sat and cried, laughed and spent hours calling friends and family while I sat on the couch across the room from her. We used hand sanitizer, we blew hugs and kisses from across the living room. IT SUCKED.
My sister, brother and I had a conference call with Mom and we shared our grief together as best we could, but it didn’t fill the horrible void of truly being together. Since that day I have not been able to be with my Mom physically in order to keep residents at Legacy safe, and that is difficult. As you may have seen in my previous post, I sit outside her window and we chat almost every day.
At a time when we should be together, hugging, crying, drinking, telling stories, seeing family and friends, we can’t and our hearts hurt all the more.
How do we mourn in today’s world? We watch on TV as the Italians are burying their dead without any family around. We watch as families and friends have loved ones in the hospital who they cannot sit with, hold their hand or stroke their hair.
Loss hit home in our community yesterday when a 28-year-old man lost his life in an avalanche while snowboarding. My Dad’s passing was somewhat expected, his was not. How do his family and friends mourn this shocking situation when they can’t be together? And trust me, phone calls and Zoom conferencing just don’t cut it.
This situation isn’t new to me in some ways. When I was 26 I lost my first husband in an accident. At that time, no one knew what to say to me or how to help me. I constantly heard, “you aren’t supposed to lose someone at your age, what can we do for you?” I’ll be damned if I knew. I remember my Grandmother’s best friend saying to me, “Isn’t it a shame you didn’t have any children?” I was horrified. She meant well, but at that point, I had to walk out of the house and just breathe, alone.
It hurts no matter what, but mourning now is like being alone in a cavernous void with those you love, just out of reach. We don’t want to be told to be strong, we don’t want to be told it will be better when Covid-19 passes and we can be together. I’m guessing the young man’s family doesn’t want to be told he died doing what he loved.
I desperately wish I could sit on my sister’s front porch with my siblings, family and friends and just BE TOGETHER. Unfortunately, that time will have to wait until there is a safe window when we can gather for a small graveside service, followed by a celebration of life party.
While I don’t have the answers, a phone call, food and beverage delivery, mowing their lawn, an email or a text, and even an old fashioned sympathy card goes a long way. This will be a difficult time for so many, and then it will have to be revisited again when we are able to come together and grieve as one.
Be cognizant of those going through a loss or a traumatic event at this time. Think carefully about how you can help them from a 6-foot distance, and be very thoughtful of what you say to them.
Above all, keep them and those around you in your prayers. We are stronger together.