Stories: Who We Have Lost
It Did Not Have To Be This Way
Story aboutJohnny Fischer
Warnings about the dangers of Covid leading to massive deaths were purposefully delayed in our country due to political reasons in February and March 2020. How could they wait that long to warn us, especially since many super spreaders of Covid were asymptomatic?
My brother Johnny entered short term rehab in a nursing home in early March of 2020. If I had known what was covered up I would have transferred him home. He was a real helper and protector. I remember all that he did to help our grandparents when they lived with us and their health was failing. He was a huge helper for our father and mother with all their medical issues. I always helped my brother but his facility was closed to visitors shortly after he arrived in rehab. Where were the helpers and protectors for Johnny and all the others? Some were there but it was too late. We needed more helpers and protectors proactively. This is very sad and tragic for so many, knowing that it did not have to be this way.
Story aboutSusan Wood
I will forever remember her hugs. I don’t like hugs, yet she would always hold on for a few seconds too long. I treasured her warm embrace even then. She would wake me with the smell of bacon on Saturdays, surprise me with toast and gravy. Her cooking and endless generosity was a staple for her home and her radiance.
When I got a puppy, she would bring him inside the house despite my Pa’s wishes so he could lick my face to wake me in the school mornings when I stayed over. She would laugh when I would giggle. She taught me to sew, to love, and to forgive. We made quilts together, and she would frequently take me shopping when I mentioned something I had been thinking about getting.
She was fierce, she was kind. Her love ran deep and was felt by all, and she was the gem of our family. Our matriarch. She defended me when no one else would. She listened to me, loved me, and showed me what it meant to love someone.
Sometimes it feels like she’s just out of reach. Like she’s just in the other room when I visit her home — renamed from Mamaw and Pa’s to Pa’s. It feels like I could call her, but she’s busy right now so I must wait. On days when I miss her horribly, I sleep with the quilt she made me when I was very young. Her special chair sits in the den, moved from the living room.
We shared our final words to each other over the phone, whether we knew they would be the last or not, in the ICU. Her voice was faint and weak. We cried together, and she apologized that she wouldn’t be able to see my dorm once I moved in. She asked me if I had a ride to the hair appointment she made me; I had to get my bangs trimmed.
I told her to focus on feeling better, that she would see my dorm soon enough. That it was going to be dirty for the first few weeks anyways, that she had plenty of time. I had it figured out for now. I told her I loved her more than words. She knew.
I hear her laugh, see her smile. Feel her warmth and her loving gaze, just out of reach. I hope to see her first whenever I join her, wherever she may be.
There is no ‘worst time’
Story aboutDonovan Kittell
I am realizing that there is no worst time. Day or night. I am constantly thinking of you Donovan and I am constantly yearning to be able to change everything. To change something to turn back time. To have you back alive. My son. Alive.
Our lives are completely different now. My life is shattered. I am jealous of other parents who can think of their children who have died and smile at the memories. I am not there yet. I yell into the void I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DIDN’T SURVIVE COVID!!!! Our new reality sucks. Saying I miss you is just not enough. I love you Donovan. – Mom
Top of the mornin' to ya!
Story aboutBobbie Lee
My mom, Bobbie Lee, was very proud of her Irish heritage. Her mother emigrated from Ireland in 1936 and my grandma spoke Irish, she sang Irish songs and had the most beautiful accent that my mom and I could imitate. And we often did.
In 2005, my mom and I established our Irish citizenship through my grandma and eventually we got our Irish passports in the mail. My mom was very proud of that and proud to tell everyone she was Irish.
So it was in 2018 when I took my mom out to breakfast and a walk around a Saturday market. She was wearing a green scarf with four leaf clovers on it, she had her Irish passport tucked into the pocket of her favorite jeans and wore her green Irish socks. Everywhere we went she walked up to people and smiled and said, “top of the mornin’ to ya!” in her best Irish accent, and then she would tip her head like she was a leprechaun wearing a top hat. I just sat back and smiled, knowing she wouldn’t have many more of these days, but trying not to think about that.
My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s from a Traumatic Brain Injury in 2014 and indeed, later in 2018, we had to move her into memory care as her disease progressed. She got two more St. Patrick’s Days before she passed away from COVID on August 24, 2020.
Among my most prized possessions is her expired Irish passport.
Story aboutJody Settle
“Every time I see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I got is a photograph
And I realize you’re not coming back anymore.”
-By Ringo Starr and George Harrison
“You might want these,” my sister says as she hands me two photographs. It’s Christmas morning and I’ve joined her family to celebrate the holiday after a three-year gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I look at the photos – one of me and one of my late partner, Jody. We’re dressed in ski gear at the base of one of the ski slopes at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. As I look at Jody’s photo, I realize that this is one of the few photos I have of him when he was walking. It would be just a few months later that he would experience a severe exacerbation of his multiple sclerosis that would leave him using a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Thinking back to that day, that wasn’t anything we anticipated. I just remember how much we laughed.
It was a typically gray winter morning, the Saturday of the President’s Day weekend in 1988. Our friends, Joe and Rob, picked us up early at Jody’s apartment and we headed from the city toward the ski resort in Connecticut. The traffic was light and we arrived within ninety minutes. Then, the “fun” began.
None of us had our own gear, so the first stop was the rental shop where we were fitted out with skis and boots. As a first-time skier, I should have known trouble was in the offing. It seems that ski boots are designed to make you lean forward so your legs are in the proper position for skiing. As for me, they made me feel like I was going to fall flat on my face… but that would come later.
Joe and Rob were experienced skiers so they headed off to the more advanced ski trails. Jody, intended to hit a medium level slope, but dragged me over to the place where I would get my “introduction to skiing” lesson. He gave me a quick kiss on the lips and headed off to his trail, leaving me to my fate.
Once he was out of sight, I looked around to see that I was the only adult amid a swarm of preteens. The instructor demonstrated all the basic movements involved in skiing and had each of his pupils perform them. He had to give me extra attention because I was slow in catching on. In fact, I was the only one who fell on his butt – repeatedly. And, to think, I paid extra for all that embarrassment.
After each of his runs, Jody stopped by to see how I was progressing. One time, he arrived in time to see me arrayed in all my glory, face down in the snow, having tripped over my skis. I was mortified, but after watching him laugh, I could see the humor in my ineptitude.
Gradually, I started to improve and I was declared ready for the “bunny slope.” Jody was off on one of his runs so my first runs were done solo – thank goodness. I would fall and get back up and continue. Eventually, I finished a few runs without a problem. By then, Jody had returned and he skied with me on the bunny slope giving me pointers and suggestions for improvement. We skied for hours and, while I can’t say I was thrilled with the overall skiing experience, I was elated to spend the time with Jody.
Late in the afternoon, we caught up with Joe and Rob and returned our rented gear. We stopped for a meal before heading back to the city where they dropped us back at Jody’s place.
Long hot showers helped loosen up the normally unused muscles we had taxed that day, and we fell into bed, dropping into a deep sleep dreaming of the next adventure we hoped would come.
Gazing at the photo now, I have to smile — we were so young, still bubbling over with the love shared by a new couple. Jody was so happy that day. His diagnosis of MS had weighed on him and that day helped him to forget those cares at least for a while. I don’t know if he realized it or not, but he proved to me how caring a person he was by interrupting his own ski runs to check on me and my progress. Over the years, Jody always insisted “I will walk again,” and did everything he could to maintain the strength of his legs. From time-to-time, a smile on his face, he would even say to me “we should go skiing again.”