Honoring a Loved One During COVID-19

My mother-in-law, Martha Schardein, passed away on November 24th of this year after a long battle with cancer. Thankfully, she did not experience a lot of pain in the final days. My sister-in-law, Laura, spent most of this year staying with mom and caring for her. She left her family for weeks on end to stay and make sure mom had everything she needed. And on occasion, Laura’s family would come from Indiana and stay with her at mom’s house. I can imagine how much they missed her and so they would come in town for a few days to see her and mom, too. 

Well, sometime during mid-November, Laura and her family got the virus. We can’t really know for sure how this came to be. Once they felt the symptoms, and got tested, they left the house quickly to go home to Indiana and quarantine. Laura started having breathing problems and landed in the hospital with oxygen levels that were constantly dropping when she tried to get up and move. She ended up having to go into ICU for a week and received several medicines including Remdesivir. The day Laura went to the hospital was the day mom passed away. Not only were we grieving mom’s death, we were very concerned about Laura’s health and if she would make it through given what the virus was doing to her lungs. Thankfully, Laura did not have to be intubated. She was eventually given convalescent plasma and that seemed to really make a difference in addition to being connected to oxygen 24/7. We communicated through text messages and she told me how awful she felt. Not only from the virus and all it was doing to her body. But she couldn’t start grieving her mom’s passing. Laura spent 21 days in the hospital and during that time we moved the funeral to a week later so she could attend and say her final “so long” to her mom. 

In the meantime, my other sister-in-law Cheryl and her husband also got COVID-19. They took over care for Martha when Laura left to go home to quarantine. And Martha’s 90 year old sister, who lived with her, got it as well. Aunt Vernice did have to go to the hospital for one night but was released back into Cheryl’s care. Cheryl and her husband stayed with her at mom’s house for the duration of their COVID illness and it was during that time that Martha passed. Cheryl told me how thankful she was to have a few days with mom before she went to Heaven. Luckily their symptoms were more mild and they stayed out of the hospital. 

On December 19th we finally honored Martha with the funeral she had planned months before she passed. We had a private visitation on the evening of the 18th in person (only family members) and allowed people to join us via Zoom. That was also true for her actual funeral on the morning of the 19th. I must say that it was a very different life celebration in the sense that only 25 or fewer of us could be in attendance. Certainly not the way we would have liked to honor our precious mom. She had so many people who loved and adored her and I know had it been a different time, there would have been a long line of people to pay their respects. My husband is quite the techie so he was the one that figured out how to make Zoom work with a large microphone to pick up the sound for her service. Frankly, I was surprised that the funeral home hadn’t taken it upon themselves to embrace and invest in technology after nine months of burying people under COVID-19 restrictions. I suppose for other families of the deceased, using Facebook Live to stream the funeral can be an option. https://frazerconsultants.com/2020/03/how-to-use-facebook-live-to-live-stream-funerals-video/ It is not ideal and we really need to be with others when grieving a loved one. We need those long hugs and the in person support of friends when we are going through loss. Not masks and standing six feet apart with immediate family only. 

I wanted to share this experience because it made me realize how hard it has been for families who are losing loved ones during the pandemic. Grief is isolating enough and then you layer all the restrictions we have to follow and it’s hard not to feel hopeless. People cannot come and sit with you and just listen as they would like to. While there is no “fixing” your grief, it does help to have people to talk with. The loneliness just exacerbates the sadness. We need community to surround us and love on us when someone we care about dies. 

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