Loss in the Time of a Pandemic

(l-r) Peggy (my mom), and Aunt Sue at one of our many Thanksgivings we spent together camping

On the early morning of April 15th, it was very windy at our house. The difference in weather is something we’re still getting used to in our new home state of North Carolina. Brooklin woke up because of the wind and came into our room a little after 2 am. I got up, settled her back into bed and went back to my own room. I checked my phone, as I normally do, if I happen to wake up. There was a text from my mom “Aunt Sue fainted at store and was taken to hospital. Brain aneurysm, don’t know if she’ll make it.” In a moment, my world was turned upside down. I frantically started texting my mom. There was no additional news, but things were not looking good. I don’t think I got another minute of sleep that night. All I kept thinking about was my Aunt Sue. I hoped by some miracle that we would have good news in the morning.

A little after 8am, my mom let me know that the doctors had determined my aunt had suffered severe brain damage. At this point, I couldn’t breathe. If she “woke up” from this, she wouldn’t be the same person. What if she didn’t wake up?

This was all happening in California while I’m thousands of miles away on the east coast. Because of the corona virus, my mom almost didn’t go to the hospital for fear of being turned away or bringing something home to my dad. Luckily, my mom went and the hospital allowed her to go in and be with her sister. My mom held my Aunt’s hand and was with her when she passed away less than 24 hours after she fainted.

(l-r) My mom, Brooklin, Me carrying Grayson, Aunt Sue, My cousin (Sue’s daughter) Tracey holding Gianna (Tracey’s daughter)

My Aunt was in her mid 70s, but a relatively healthy person. This was such an unexpected loss for our family, it has been hard for all of us to deal with. My two cousins lost their mom, my uncle lost his bride of almost 51 years (their wedding anniversary will be on Mother’s Day) and my mom lost her sister. Because of the coronavirus, we were unable to have a funeral or any sort of gathering to honor her, which selfishly, for me, I needed something like that for closure.

The last time I saw my Aunt was at Brooklin and Grayson’s joint birthday party/going away party in July 2019 (right before we moved to NC). I never imagined that it was going to be the last time I would ever see her. My Aunt Sue and I actually texted on Easter, two days before her aneurysm. We both ended our texts with “I love you” and “stay healthy”.

(l-r) Chris, Aunt Sue, Me, Uncle Jerry. July 2019

All I can hope for is that I can be together again soon with my family because this grieving apart is so very difficult. We talk on the phone, text, video chat, but it’s not the same as being in the same room with the person and hugging them.

I know it’s cliche to say and we hear it often, but remember to tell the ones you love how you feel. We are not promised tomorrow and losing my Aunt reminded me just how very fragile and unexpected life can be. Xoxo

Nicole

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