Stories: Who We Have Lost

My Husband of 57 Years

Story aboutKenneth Wright (1 of 2)

My husband and I were married when I was 17 and a senior in high school and he was 19. We both worked and made a home together and after we married for 7 years had our 1st son Timothy. Our 2nd son was born 22 months later Todd! My husband worked for CSX Railroad for 40 years and retired at the age of 60. He loved working at the railroad and took pride in it. He loved playing baseball, loved bowling and collecting baseball cards. He also, coached our son’s little league teams.

We always had nice homes to live in and the railroad transferred him to Jacksonville Florida for 16 years. He had a lot of friends that he worked with and also went to school with! We attended Atwood Wesleyan church since he was born. My husband loved the lord and was a gentle soul.

A few years ago he was diagnosed with heart failure. Last year 2020 he was in and out of the hospital. In May I had to take him to the hospital; he was having swelling in his feet and ankles. The nurses came from the tent outside the hospital and put a mask on him and took him from our car into the tents outside the hospital. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to stay there or what! They called me a couple of hours later to let me know that they were admitting him. I was not allowed in.

A week later he was sent to a rehab (nursing home) which I was not allowed in. I did get to see him a couple of times through a window. He was alone. After 3 weeks there he came home, very weak. In June he had to go back to the hospital. He was tested for COVID and tested negative. After a couple of weeks alone in the hospital he came home. In July I had to get an ambulance to take him back to the hospital. Four days later he tested positive for COVID. Again I wasn’t allowed to see him. He was in quarantine.

My Husband

Story aboutKenneth Wright (2 of 2)

After a week he was sent to a nursing home to their COVID unit in their basement! I am devastated. He was so upset he was not being taken care of and he was so alone and in the basement. On Friday I tried to call him and the nurses station 11 times no answer. At 11 :00 that night someone answered and told me he was fine!!

The very next morning at 10:00 am Audubon Hospital Emergency room called to ask me if I knew that my husband was there in the emergency room. I did not know. No one had called me to let me know that he was on the way to the hospital. The emergency room doctor said that he was barely breathing and that they needed permission to put him on a ventilator and to insert a pick line. Of course I gave my permission! He was then taken to the intensive care unit. I was not allowed in for 4 days! When they took him off of the ventilator I had to decide on a DNR. These decisions were the hardest I have ever made.

Finally he was put in a regular room. I got to see him a couple of days then suddenly he was in quarantine again. I was shocked. I had just seen him the day before. They made me stand in his doorway. He didn’t know it was me. I left crying, hurt, and confused! The very next day I was allowed to spend the day with him. Our sons had not been allowed to s even him. I Facetimed with our oldest and they were able to say I love you. Then Kenny went to sleep while I sat there with him. I left and went home. The very next morning the nurse called and said that his breathing was getting shallow so our sons and I rushed up to the hospital. When I walked in they took my temperature and called the nurses station and it was the wrong floor. I waited and then when they were calling the correct floor no one answered. I left and told them I was going up there and they called security on me. I got on the elevator 2 security guys came after me. I told them my husband was dying and they said because of protocol I couldn’t go up there. I insisted and they rode the elevator with me. I got off the elevator and a nurse was waiting for me and I asked her to please let our sons come up to be with their father. They did send for our boys. By the time we got to his room he had just taken his last breath before we could be with him and hold his hand . . . he died without family and he loved his family. I am so heart broken. Ten months ago this morning. COVID 19.

You Know It, Dad

Story aboutKenneth Wright

We miss you daily. We wish we could have spent more time with you those last six weeks. Hopefully you are playing cards with Grandma and Grandpa. You know it, Dad.

Her Name was June. She was My Grandmother.

Story aboutJune Hill (1 of 2)

When you lose someone, you lose them in a thousand different ways.

You lose her birthday cards that come to your mailbox; you lose her voice on the other end of the receiver. You miss the image of her, sitting in the lift chair, feet kicked up. You miss the taste of her creamed potatoes, the liver spots on her hands, the way her fingers crooked at their ends. You miss her black hair with silver streaks, the pitch in her voice when she laughs. You lose making plans to see her. You lose new pictures and new memories as if she’s vanished from the frame.

About a week ago, I talked to my grandmother on the phone. She had a dry cough and had been to an urgent care where they diagnosed her with bronchitis. She said she took cough medicine twice a day, and she was surprised that the syrup tasted good. Her voice sounded strong even though she said her legs had been weak. She couldn’t get up to “wet” because her legs would fall out from under her. She’d managed to get a wastebasket, pulling it to her chair. When she felt like she was about to explode, she’d hover over it. She said she managed not to make a mess.

I don’t remember everything we talked about, it seems so trivial now, but I know we talked about Gov. Andy Beshear and his updates, showing true leadership. She mentioned that she’d put a card in the mail for my youngest, who turns 7 on April 10. We said, “I love you,” keeping the conversation brief, so she didn’t cough.

A few days later, my father called to say that she had been taken by ambulance to Baptist Health Madisonville because she was so weak. Aunt Beverly had to sit outside in the parking lot because no visitors were allowed. Aunt Bev sat there, not knowing what to do other than call around, updating family, and calling the hospital for updates.

Her Name Was June

Story aboutJune Hill (2 of 2)

The first update said she had pneumonia. The second that she was in isolation on a COVID-19 floor. She’d been tested, of course, but her results wouldn’t be available for 48 hours. Very few staff worked the unit to minimize transmission. She’d have to test negative twice to be moved elsewhere.

At first, updates were mostly positive. She wanted to go home, which was a good sign. There was even talk about sending her home. But then we received word that she’d tested positive for COVID-19. In just a few hours, her oxygen levels began to drop, the pneumonia built in her lungs. She, as the medical professionals say, had taken a turn for the worse.

Waking can be hard because you remember. You remember someone you love is hurting, can’t quite catch her breath, and she’s alone in a hospital room. That’s the cruelty of COVID-19, the separation. As humans, we need connection, but COVID-19 has severed that cord ruthlessly.

I woke this morning and headed downstairs. It was too early to call for updates. But at about 7:30 a.m. as I made a chicken salad sandwich, my phone rang.

Did I know before I knew? Before I heard my father weeping? Before the words “she passed sometime during the night?”

Everything unravels in that moment. Everything you’ve held close, the breath and tears, let loose.

Will there be a funeral? Will we be able to hug? Are we carrying this grief alone, too, only to cut it open when we see one another again? If we are able to see one another again? Will a hug even mean the same?

That’s another thing COVID does — it makes you question a gesture once meant for comfort, because now anything might kill you.

It’s easy to hear statistics on the news — a number isn’t a person, but when one number becomes a person you love, you’re angry and scared shitless.

If this faceless killer can find my grandmother, homebound, in rural Kentucky, it can find us all.

We’re all more than a number, let’s not forget. Her name was June. She was a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt. She loved us all, and we loved her.

Jamey Temple is June Hill’s granddaughter and an English professor at University of the Cumberlands. This piece was published in The Courier Journal, 4/5/2020.

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